A federal judge has sentenced a Midwest City man who conned seniors out of their savings to serve nearly 10 years in prison and pay $4.6 million in restitution for his role in the Ponzi scheme.
Joe Don Johnson, 43, was an estate planner who drew up wills for his elder clients. He would convince the seniors to invest their life savings with the now-defunct Oklahoma City-based company Global West Funding Ltd., operated by Brian McKye.
Johnson promised his clients returns as high as 20 percent, but the bulk of the money went to pay off earlier investors, commissions to Johnson and other salesmen, as well as McKye's personal expenses, according to court documents.
While Johnson's victims said they were happy on Tuesday that Johnson had received a lengthy prison sentence, they have little hope they ever will receive restitution.
Moore resident Bonnie Cory, 73, a retired computer assembly worker, lost $45,000 she invested with Johnson and McKye. Since the Ponzi scheme was uncovered, Cory has had only about $900 returned to her through a receiver after the Oklahoma Securities Department froze all of McKye's assets.
“I'm sure I won't get nothing more out of it — I won't live that long,” Cory said.
Oklahoma City resident Vaden Wheeler, 95, invested about $200,000 with Johnson, but has received only about $4,000 back.
“It's just a drop in the bucket — I didn't figure I would get any of it back,” Wheeler said.
Johnson fled to the Philippines after a federal grand jury indicted him and McKye on money laundering and securities fraud charges in February 2011. Authorities in the Philippines arrested Johnson in Manila in March 2012.
Attempts to contact Johnson's attorney Matthew Kane were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
In court documents submitted in the case, Kane had argued that Johnson should receive a reduced sentenced because he faced inhumane treatment while imprisoned in the Philippines for six weeks while awaiting extradition.
Kane also argued that Johnson should not face a lengthy prison sentence because he is a military veteran and has a drinking problem.
Johnson also pleaded guilty to the charges and assisted the federal government with its case, the court documents said.
In April 2012, McKye was sentenced to 21 years in prison and ordered to pay $4.5 million in restitutions to his victims.
McKye has appealed his conviction to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.