New York Man Garners 20-Year Sentence for ‘Cashless ATM’ Ponzi Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 27, 2011|
PHOENIX—U.S. District Court Judge Mary H. Murguia today sentenced Christopher Livanos, of New York City, to 20 years in prison for his role in an $8 million Ponzi scheme that sold fictitious “cashless ATMs” to victims throughout the United States. Livanos, 50, pleaded guilty on March 2, 2010, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of mail fraud. Judge Murguia also ordered Livanos to pay $6,187,735 in restitution.
“This was a classic Ponzi scheme where the defendant preyed on and defrauded hundreds of victims with an enticing but utterly fictitious business opportunity,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “Now he must pay a steep price for those actions. This conviction sends a strong message to others who would victimize and defraud their friends, neighbors and associates that this office will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute scam artists.”
U.S. Postal Inspection Service Phoenix Division Inspector in Charge Pete Zegarac added, “Today’s sentencing should serve as a strong deterrent to others who would misuse our nation's mail system to commit fraud. The scheme devised by the defendant cost victims more than $8 million, dashing their hopes for a profitable business opportunity. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service advises the public to investigate any investment opportunity before committing money to solicitors. Initial research efforts can save consumers a multitude of time and money in the long run."
From about March 2003, until about January 2005, Livanos (a.k.a. Jim Roberts) and other co-defendants deceived approximately 300 victim investors into believing they were investing their money in a business opportunity pertaining to “cashless ATMs.” The perpetrators established two Arizona corporations, Mac Investments, Inc. and MAC Investment Sales, Inc. of the same mailing address in Tempe in order to accomplish their goals.
The defendant and his co-conspirators promoted and purported to sell a “cashless ATM” known as the “MAC 8000.” Livanos falsely agreed to sell not only the machines, but also the MAC business concept, which included installing the machines at undisclosed retail locations, managing and providing maintenance for the machines, and administering the payment of revenues supposedly generated by the machines to each victim investor. Livanos claimed that each cashless ATM transaction generated $1 to $2 in fees per transaction. No cashless ATMs were ever purchased or installed, and there were never any contracts between MAC and the purported retail establishments.
The scheme operated as a typical Ponzi scheme. A small portion of the revenues generated by the fraudulent sale of the fictitious machines was used to pay investors a false “return” on their investment, when in fact this “return” was simply money obtained from more recent investors. Defendant and his co-conspirators stole more than $8 million from victim investors.
Co-defendants William Hoberg and Maria Gonzalez were also recently sentenced in District Court. Co-conspirator Jeff Teitlebaum remains at large. The investigation in this case was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution was handled by Walter Perkel and Peter Sexton, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
CASE NUMBER: CR-09-198-PHX-MHM
RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-074(Livanos)