March 6, 2015

Convicted Sacramento Businessman Ordered to Pay More Than $108 Million in Restitution in Decade-Long Scheme

SACRAMENTO, CA—On Thursday, a federal judge ordered Deepal Wannakuwatte, 64, of Sacramento, to pay $108,199,425 in restitution to victims of his long-running fraud scheme, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today. This ruling concludes the federal criminal prosecution; civil proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court are ongoing.

On November 13, 2014, United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley sentenced Wannakuwatte to 20 years in prison and ordered him to forfeit multiple properties, vehicles, business interests, and bank accounts totaling at least $3.5 million to be used to provide restitution to victims.

According to court documents, from 2002 to 2014, Wannakuwatte convinced nearly 200 victims, including individuals, corporate entities, and financial institutions, to invest in a number of business opportunities by misrepresenting the financial worth of himself and his companies. Ultimately, Wannakuwatte obtained well over $230 million from his victims, some of which was returned to victims as illusory profit payments. Contrary to his representations, Wannakuwatte used much of the money he obtained to pay himself and his family, make lulling payments to participants in his fraudulent investment schemes, and pay outstanding debts unrelated to his false representations.

“Today’s order brings to an end the criminal proceedings against Mr. Wannakuwatte, who operated the largest Ponzi scheme in Sacramento history,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “The agony of his victims, however, continues. While Mr. Wannakuwatte contemplates his situation from behind prison walls in the coming years, my office will continue to try to identify and liquidate ill-gotten gains that rightfully belong to his victims.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael M. Beckwith and Kevin C. Khasigian prosecuted the case.