Lebanon County Man Sentenced in Million-Dollar Investment Fraud Scheme
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Christopher Burhans, age 65, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner today to 37 months’ imprisonment, two years’ supervised release and $1,658,205 in restitution. Burhans is scheduled to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by January 8, 2015.
In sentencing Burhans, Chief Judge Conner said, “These were not business mistakes. This was fraud; outright, clear, unmitigated fraud.”
According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Burhans pled guilty in December 2013 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As presented to the Court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Terz, in 2003, Burhans started a private mortgage company known as Angelic Ventures. The stated business purpose was to solicit private investors to provide money for private mortgages. In about 2006, Burhans started a business known as Home Buyers Solutions, Inc. (“HBSI”). HBSI, like Angelic Ventures, was in the business of making private real estate loans financed with private investor funds. Burhans operated both businesses out of his home at 847 Maple Street, Lebanon, Pa.
Burhans carried out the scheme by placing advertisements in farming newspapers, including “Fish Wrapper,” “Die Botschaft,” and “Lancaster Farming,” announcing an investment opportunity with Angelic Ventures and HBSI. In the advertisement, Burhans represented that the investments were insured, secured, and promised rates of return as high as 12 percent. Burhans falsely represented to investors that their money would be solely used to make loans for the purchase of real estate.
In fact, Burhans misappropriated much of the money he received form investors. He diverted money to other businesses he owned and for his own personal needs and expenses, including payment of a salary for himself, his wife and son. Burhans also used investor money to purchase multiple timeshares he used for vacation.
In December 2009, Burhans wrote to the investors stating that, due to the downturn in the economy, Angelic Ventures and HBSI were no longer in business. In the December 2009 letter, Burhans misrepresented to investors that the business losses “ate up even our reserves and all our own personal belongings.” Those statements were false.
At the sentencing, Burhans promised to pay back the lenders who lost money by investing in his company. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joesph Terz noted that those who lost their money were not “lenders” as Burhans repeatedly stated, but his victims.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.