A former Glen Rock man who used his purported "currency trading firm" to swindle customers out of more than $400,000 must spend about three years in prison.
Christopher A. Engel, 34, now of Washington, Utah, was sentenced Tuesday in Harrisburg's federal court to 38 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $405,000 in restitution, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. He must report to prison on Aug. 18, the release states.
Engel created a Glen Rock business he called Pinnacle Forex Group LLC in May 2010 and advertised it on the Internet as a "full scale currency investment firm" that was in the top 1 percent of currency traders, according to federal court records.
He told prospective investors PFG managed client accounts worth tens of millions of dollars, and that the company was registered with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, records state.
Neither statement was true, according to the court records, "nor did Engel invest the clients' funds as promised."
Pocketed cash: From June 2011 until October 2012, Engel executed his scheme to defraud people throughout the country through his business, officials said.
He failed to invest most of the money entrusted to him and instead used that cash for his personal use, concealing the fraud by sending clients phony monthly account statements with fabricated earnings and trading activity, according to the indictment.
Engel received about $411,500 from 21 clients, federal court records state, but invested only about $137,000 of it. He later withdrew the invested money and took that as well, records state.
Engel returned only $8,622 to clients and falsely claimed he lost all their money in trading, according to court records.
A fraud charge was lodged against him on March 3 and he pleaded guilty to fraud on March 12, records state.
Now in Utah: Engel moved to Utah in March, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by his Philadelphia-based attorney, Jack Meyerson.
Meyerson wrote that Engel is "committed to raising "his two, soon to be three, children" with his wife.
Engel used part of his ill-gotten gains to buy Whole Life Boost Natural Foods store, which was located in the York area, according to the memorandum.
"This business has been listed for sale since April 1, 2014," the memorandum states. "Mr. Engel is committed that all of the proceeds from the sale of the business will be ... for use as restitution in this case. Conservatively, he estimates that a realistic sale price for the store will be $150,000."
Myerson did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.