An Oceanside woman pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Central Islip to operating a Ponzi scheme that federal officials said defrauded 30 investors of a total of $6.9 million.
Laurie Schneider, 39, promised investors up to a 60 percent return in 18 months on a nonexistent deal to buy machinery in China and sell it in the United States at a steep markup, prosecutors said. She also ran a bogus real estate scheme, using some of that money to pay the initial investors, officials said.
As part of a plea agreement, Schneider pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in cheating an unidentified investor out of $290,000 in October 2007.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Schneider faces 51 months to 62 months in prison when she is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley.
Also as part of the agreement, Schneider agreed to make restitution to all the victims in an amount to be determined by Hurley, and also to forfeit $1 million to the government.
In a brief statement, Schneider acknowledged cheating the unidentified investor out of the $290,000 by claiming she had a contact in China who could provide the machinery through her Oceanside company named Janitorial Close-Out City Corp.
Schneider admitted she had no contacts in China.
Before her plea, Michael Canty, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District, said Schneider spent investors' money on country club membership, a power boat, luxury automobiles and travel.
Schneider's attorney John Carman of Garden City said his client was "a young businesswoman driven to desperation" by her business problems.
In a statement, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, said: "Laurie Schneider played the part of a successful entrepreneur willing to help others invest. . . . In reality she was a con artist, using lies and false assurances to bilk unsuspecting investors out of millions of dollars."