September 14, 2010 / 6:55 PM / 9 years ago

NJ woman pleads guilty in $45 million Ponzi scheme

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey woman on Tuesday pleaded guilty to running a $45 million Ponzi scheme in which she promised to invest money in real estate, but instead gambled some of it at casinos.

Federal prosecutors said Antoinette Hodgson, 58, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis in Manhattan federal court. She had been charged in June.

Hodgson is expected to be sentenced to between 51 and 63 months in prison, and fined as much as $1 million.

The Montclair resident also agreed to forfeit $5 million, her stake in 24 properties she bought as part of the scheme and a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Arizona, prosecutors said.

Jack Arsenault, a lawyer for Hodgson, declined to comment on the plea. Sentencing is expected on December 14.

Prosecutors accused Hodgson of soliciting $45 million from more than 20 New York and New Jersey investors between 2006 and December 2009, promising to use the money to buy or renovate residential real estate properties for eventual resale.

They said she instead spent only $6 million on real estate, and used most of the rest to repay earlier investors.

Hodgson also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos; invested more than $700,000 in the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, and gave tens of thousands of dollars to friends and family, prosecutors said.

The defendant had faced a maximum 40 years in prison.

The case is U.S. v. Hodgson, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-mag-1261. Hodgson’s first name is misspelled “Antionette” in the official case caption.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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