Former PO man gets 30 years for Ponzi scheme
March 25, 2009 · Updated 2:29 PM
A former Port Orchard man who bought a mansion with a private golf course in South Kitsap after stealing millions from investors was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday in Tacoma, according to the United States Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service.
Charles Nolon Bush, 69, who launched a $35-million Ponzi scheme in 1998, was convicted of numerous counts of fraud and money laundering last year after being captured in Poland and extradited to stand trial in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
In court March 20, victims called Bush “a liar, a thief and a coward” as they explained to Judge Ronald B. Leighton that the defendant stole money they set aside for college and healthcare.
“This was an incredible enterprise,” Judge Leighton said before sentencing Bush and ordering him to pay more than $30 million in restitution. “(Bush) lied to people on a repeated basis.... He was very calculated throughout this enterprise.”
According to the federal indictment, from 1998 to 2002 Bush used three false companies to collect millions of dollars from people believing they were investing in high-yield ventures. While a resident of Des Moines and later Port Orchard, Bush began operating various investment entities such as Hulaman Management Services (HMS), Global Dominion Financial Services (GDFS), and Cornerstone Institute, which had an office in Port Orchard.
While the charging documents outline nearly 30 years of cons and schemes, the scheme for which he was convicted began in 1998 when he conducted business as HMS and promoted “fictional instruments called mid-term notes.”
Approximately eight months later in July of 1999, Bush and his live-in partner purchased View Park Golf Estate, a mansion near Southworth on 19 acres that included a tennis court and a private, nine-hole golf course. Bush conducted business from the estate, along with a luxury suite at Safeco Field, while reportedly telling investors that he had actually taken a vow of poverty for himself.
To purchase the $2 million-estate, Bush used investors’ money to make a $300,000 down payment, pay the $10,000 a month mortgage and spend $1 million on remodeling the mansion. The estate has since housed a bed and breakfast and public golf course.
A month later, authorities arrested two of Bush’s associates, one in California and one in New York. Bush then began changing both the name of his businesses and their locations to avoid authorities, though he continued to meet with investors at View Park.
In order to lend legitimacy to the investment scheme, Bush falsely represented his background, knowledge and experience, including that he previously had been a successful businessman. One of his former wives described him as a “silver-tongued fox” who had pulled cons for decades that included scamming home buyers and selling things such as diet cookies and magnetic mattresses.
In July of 2000, reportedly only two weeks after he promised investors in his Global Dominion Financial Services a 150-precent return, Bush and two others entered into an agreement to begin building the Cabo San Quintin luxury resort in Mexico, committing to providing $800 million in funding.
By October of that year, Bush was defaulting on his payments for the resort, but reportedly continued to solicit funds for the endeavor as late as January of 2002.
In June of 2002, amidst increasing demands from investors for returns and a bank foreclosure on his View Park estate, Bush fled the country for France and then Poland.
On Jan. 25, 2007, The Department of Justice requested Bush’s extradition from Poland, and the following August Polish authorities arrested him. He fought extradition, but was brought back to the U.S.
“Stopping the predatory abuse of investors by con artists will always be a major priority for federal law enforcement,” said Kevin Hanff, the IRS Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Washington. “When criminals take advantage of trust placed in them by ordinary citizens, those citizens expect their government to hold those criminals accountable.”