A former insurance broker from Mission Viejo who befriended three elderly investors, including a 102-year-old man, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday of defrauding them of more than $600,000 in a sophisticated investment scheme, federal prosecutors said.
Jacques (Jack) Doigny, 43, who also owned a failed wholesale soccer supply business in Anaheim, faces up to 30 years in federal prison for masterminding a plot to bilk the victims of their life savings, Assistant U.S. Atty. John Walsh said.
Atwater, Calif., residents Peter Ross, 102, and wife Esther, 83, gave Doigny $230,000 in early 1988 to invest in annuities and relied on him to perform a variety of secretarial chores, including filing their income tax returns for them, the victims said.
Roy Aldridge, 75, of Hollywood, a close friend of the Rosses, invested $394,000 with Doigny, Walsh said.
Doigny used the money to support an extravagant lifestyle that included several European vacations, a motor home and a new house in Mission Viejo, and also to bolster the Soccer Warehouse, his financially ailing company, Walsh said.
Doigny, a native of Italy who has lived all over Europe and Israel, is being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. He is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge James M. Ideman on Sept. 17.
Doigny had been a fugitive for four months when he was arrested in Tucson in April. He was using several aliases and had a forged passport at the time, Walsh said.
In an agreement with prosecutors, Doigny pleaded guilty to three counts of securities fraud and three counts of mail fraud in exchange for the dropping of 14 other counts, Walsh said.
"I'm so sorry for him," Esther Ross said in a telephone interview. "He really had a good heart. It was just one of those things that happens to people who have a love for money. He wanted everything, and he wanted to be the best. That led to his downfall."
Fortunately, the Rosses recovered all but a few thousand dollars of their money, Peter Ross said.
Aldridge was unavailable for comment.
According to Walsh and the Rosses, here is how the scheme worked:
In early 1988, as an agent with Mutual of Omaha in Los Angeles, Doigny persuaded the three to invest in annuities. The money from the three was actually invested a money-market account under their names but with Doigny's home address. Using Mutual of Omaha letterhead and a software program stolen from the company, Doigny sent the three fake computerized statements purporting to show that they were earning interest on their nonexistent annuities.
"They certainly looked like the real thing," Peter Ross said, "but he fooled us and Roy too."
Doigny, by forging his clients' signatures, repeatedly dipped into the money market account, using it like a checking account to write checks to himself and for his troubled business, Walsh said.
"These people he defrauded were particularly vulnerable people," Walsh said. "Their primary vulnerability was their age. They trusted him."
Soon after he began the scheme, Doigny was fired from Mutual of Omaha on unrelated allegations involving fraud and theft, Walsh said. Doigny was never charged with any crime as a result of those allegations.
Doigny did not tell his clients that he had been terminated, continuing his relationship with them.
Peter Ross later became suspicious, however. He discovered that he and his wife were victims of fraud when he asked the insurance company about the state of his annuities. Mutual of Omaha later repaid most of the Rosses' money because their account had been bonded, Peter Ross said.
After they learned of Doigny's scheme, Mutual of Omaha officials asked Postal Service inspectors and the U.S. attorney's office to investigate, Walsh said.
Investigators contacted Doigny in November, 1989, but he ignored their order to appear before them and went to Europe for a month. He returned in December, took his motor home and fled to Arizona. He was later arrested there and extradited to California, Walsh said.