Man Faces Up to 95 Years in Ponzi Scam

From Times staff reports

A Laguna Niguel man was convicted Thursday of bilking investors, most of them elderly Orange County residents, out of more than $10 million by selling them practically worthless oil and gas partnerships.

After deliberating for two days, a U.S. District Court jury in Santa Ana found Lance Van Alstyne, 34, guilty of engaging in a Ponzi scheme from 1992 to 1994.

"As Ponzi schemes go, this is a medium-sized one," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Van Alstyne sold limited partnerships in transportation of natural gas to utilities. In reality, the partnerships were investments in oil and gas wells at greater risk than he had disclosed. According to court testimony, Van Alstyne spent less than a third of the investors' money on the wells.

Van Alstyne was taken into custody Thursday and will be sentenced Oct. 15. He faces up to 95 years in federal prison and fines of up to $2 million.

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