by Max Brantley
Gary Marcus Smith of Pine Bluff was sentenced today to nine years in prison for running what the U.S. attorney's office said was one of the largest Ponzi schemes ever discovered in Arkansas. Judge Susan Webber Wright did the sentencing.
He pleaded guilty last year to securities fraud charges and was ordered to pay $15.8 million in restitution. Fat chance. But the feds said they had seized $6.6 million from Smith's accounts when he was arrested in late 2005, so investors will get about 44 percent of their money back.
Smith did business as TAL Capital Management and TAL Group. It was the familiar game. He promised huge annual returns -- 20 to 80 percent. He told people who invested with him they could never lose. He took in $20 million, mostly from Arkansas residents. He sent out bogus monthly statements for sham trading accounts. Look most scam artists, he wasn't very good. He lost money in his real personal trading accounts, about $500,000 a month at the end, and spent plenty of the money on himself. The Arkansas Securities Department started the investigation and the FBI joined in.