Former Chevy Chase investment adviser appeals 20-year prison sentence in Ponzi scheme

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A Maryland investment adviser is appealing her conviction and 20-year prison sentence for defrauding investors out of millions of dollars, some of which she spent on astrological gems, cosmetic medical procedures and religious rituals in India.

Dawn Bennett’s attorneys filed a notice last Friday that they are asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review her case.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Bennett on July 31. Jurors who convicted Bennett last October heard testimony that she used investors’ money to pay more than $800,000 for prayers by Hindu priests in India to ward off federal investigators while her business collapsed.

An FBI agent said investigators found evidence in Bennett’s home that she tried to silence U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators by casting “hoodoo” spells.

Bennett was convicted on 17 charges related to the $20 million fraud scheme. She received a 20-year sentence and was ordered  to pay restitution of $14.5 million and forfeiture of $14.3 million.

Bennett formerly operated Bennett Financial Group Services in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

She defrauded 46 investors out of more than $20 million in less than three years.

The FBI’s investigation of Bennett began in December 2015 after the SEC formally accused her of defrauding investors by inflating the amount of assets she managed and exaggerating the returns on her customers’ investments.

Prosecutors said Bennett didn’t tell investors in her luxury sportswear company that she was using their money to pay off other investors or to cover personal expenses, including more than $141,000 on astrological gems, more than $100,000 on cosmetic medical procedures and a $500,000 annual lease for a luxury suite at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium.

Bennett used promissory notes to raise millions from investors in her company, DJBennett.com, authorities said. Some investors were longtime friends. Others knew her from “Financial Myth Busting With Dawn Bennett,” a paid weekly radio show she hosted in the Washington, D.C., area.

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