MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two Minnesota men, including a former Minnesota Vikings tight end, are charged with running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says 66-year-old Stu Voigt and 61-year-old Jeffery Gardner face several criminal charges in connection to a real estate scheme between 2005 and 2007.
The complaint says Voigt and Gardner raised money from private investors in connection with Gardner’s business, Hennessey Financial, LLC, promising returns of 10 to 20 percent annually.
But the duo is accused of using the funds instead to repay previous investors and pay off Gardner’s debts from his other companies.
Gardner also allegedly knew Hennessey was failing, but continually lied to investors. Gardner and Voigt then allegedly begin to set up new companies and new bank accounts to funnel money away from Hennessey.
Voigt, who played for the Vikings throughout the 1970s, was chairman of the board at First Commercial Bank at the time. He allegedly secured loans from the bank to Gardner to keep Hennessey afloat, even though Gardner’s financial situation would have prevented him from loan approval.
The complaint also alleged that Gardner misrepresented the circumstances surrounding the departure of Hennessey’s CFO to the bank, saying he was having family issues. In reality, the CFO allegedly left after finding out about Hennessey’s dire condition.
Gardner and Voigt each face these charges: two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud; four counts of mail fraud; five counts of bank fraud; and seven counts of giving false statements on a loan application.
Gardner also faces one count of making monetary transactions in criminally-derived property, while Voigt will face 16 counts of the same crime.
Voigt was also charged with two counts of making false statements to the FDIC.
The case was the result of work between the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, the FDIC and the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Fraud Bureau.