John Knox Bridges sentenced to 10 years in prison
A con man who bilked millions from his victims — including the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer — was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday, the Charlotte Observer reported.
John Knox Bridges, who lived in Salisbury until his sentencing, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last year to securities fraud and money laundering.
The 52-year-old was accused of taking more than $2.3 million from friends and coworkers, as well as $600,000 from the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation while he served on the foundation’s board.
He duped investors into dumping money in a fake business, building an elaborate Ponzi scheme authorities said. He pretended to be from a family worth billions of dollars.
He missed a scheduled sentencing hearing in January. Authorities later found him in the basement of Maupin Avenue ARP Church in Salisbury with a loaded shotgun. He surrendered after a brief standoff and has been in jail since awaiting sentencing.
Sherry Austin, a childhood friend whose family attended the church Bridges’ father pastored, was one of his victims. She said he belongs in prison.
“He deserves every bit of the 10 years for what he has done to people,” she said. “The main thing I want people to know is that the victims … were not so-called rich people. They were firemen, they were teachers, they were dental hygienists, they were police officers. They were working people, and he deceived them over many years.”
A federal judge in Charlotte also ordered Knox to pay full restitution to his victims, the Observer reported. But Austin — who with her husband lost $100,000 to Bridges’ lies — doesn’t see that happening.
“I don’t know how he would do that. I don’t know how he would get employment. I don’t know how he would make the money,” she said.
Moreover, Austin said, Bridges can’t make restitution for the pain he’s caused.
“There’s no way he could repay the damage he’s done to relationships, to the community, to his minister father’s legacy,” she said.
Austin said there’s nothing she’d want to say to Bridges now, but she does have a message for others.
“I think I would say, if I could say anything, I would say to people at large, understand these people work slowly, patiently, they’re very deceptive. And don’t ever think it can’t happen to you.”