Former Salisbury man sentenced in Ponzi scheme

Published 12:10 am Friday, October 30, 2015

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office announced on Tuesday that a former Salisbury resident and businessman was sentenced to nine years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme.

Daniel H. Williford, 57, ran an investment scheme from January 2007 to July 2013 that defrauded more than 200 investors of more than $44 million.

According to court records, Willford told his investors that their money would be invested in telecom businesses such as wireless Internet, Internet towers and other companies. Court records show that only $7.7 million of the funds obtained were invested, while $32 million were used to cover personal expenses and to pay some of his victims a supposed profit to keep the scheme going.

Court records show that after Williford stopped having legitimate business operations, he still duped money from several investors. When the game ran out, Williford caused nearly $18 million in losses to more than 100 investors.

Victims testified in court that they’d lost children’s college savings, their retirement, declared bankruptcy or jeopardized their businesses as a result of Williford’s sweet talking. One reported that Williford had literally defrauded him on the runway before takeoff when the two were co-pilots for a commercial airliner.

Williford pleaded guilty to securities fraud in July 2014. According to the release, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. said that Williford’s lengthy sentence was intended to “frighten those who will think about doing this, to make them think twice about stealing other people’s money” and to make such people realize “that going to prison for that long is not worth it.”

Cogburn also noted that the victims “will suffer a long time,” and pointed to the “callousness and huge period of time in which (Williford) took these people’s money” as a basis for the sentence.

According to the release, Williford was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Ryan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte. In addition to the 110-month prison term, Cogburn ordered Williford to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $17,915,013.35 as restitution.