COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Investors are getting back more money they entrusted to a three men now serving decades in prison for an $80 million scam, attorneys said Wednesday.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said that court-appointed lawyer Beattie Ashmore has issued a round of checks totaling $19 million to people victimized by the "3 Hebrew Boys." About 3,800 checks were mailed, reimbursing individuals around 46 cents for every dollar, Nettles said.
A federal judge appointed Ashmore to round up and sell assets belonging to Joseph Brunson, Tony Pough and Timothy McQueen. The men were convicted in 2009 on dozens of counts, including money laundering.
Brunson and McQueen were each sentenced to 27 years in prison, and Pough was sentenced to 30 years — punishments prosecutors said were the highest ever for fraud convictions in South Carolina's federal courts.
The men called themselves the "3 Hebrew Boys," drawing their nickname from a Biblical account of three men who survived being tossed into a fiery furnace because of their faith. In their pitch, the men told investors they had been through the flames of crushing debt and survived, thanks to their secret investments and the power of God.
Authorities said the men preyed on debt-plagued investors, actually putting less than $1 out of every $10,000 into the foreign currency markets. A very small percentage went to other investments, such as a limo service or small businesses, but most of it went for a fleet of expensive cars, vacation homes, pro football game luxury boxes and a Gulfstream jet.
The men remained defiant to the end, telling authorities they believed they did nothing wrong and planned to use some of the proceeds to feed hungry children and help the homeless. As part of their sentences, the men were ordered to repay $82 million in restitution. An appeals court is currently considering their case.
In May 2012, the first allotment of $19 million was distributed to more than 4,000 people who said they were fleeced by the trio. In July 2013, Ashmore distributed about $2.5 million more.