“This is the largest Ponzi scheme ever prosecuted in the Western New York district …”
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A Rochester man will spend the next 22 years behind bars for defrauding hundreds of investors out of more than $115 million dollars.
“This is the largest Ponzi scheme ever prosecuted in the Western New York district, with over 1,000 victims, and over $100 million dollars in fraud,” FBI agent out of Buffalo, Darren Cox said.
Christopher Parris was sentenced for his involvement in two fraud cases. One for a Ponzi scam and the other for fraudulent sale of COVID masks. The Ponzi scam was one of WNY highest level fraud cases.
Sentencing for Parris was over three hours. We heard very emotional testimonies from just a few of the thousand victims of the Ponzi scheme and how they lost all their hard earned retirement money. At one point U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. addressed Parris and said he was “The biggest con man that I’ve ever had in my courtroom”.
“Victim impact statements, which helped the court sentence the defendant to more than 20 years in prison,” another FBI agent said.
We heard six people share heart wrenching stories about how their lives were destroyed. All the money they saved to retire, gone. Some were in person and some were over the phone. Every person stated that they felt betrayed by Parris, that he gained their trust in vulnerable times.
“One woman, who is 77, said Mr. Parris approached her, when her husband was sick and dying, befriended her, gained her trust, and said he could help her. She gave the money to him, and now she’s 77-years-old and still working,” the FBI said.
Over 10 years, Parris and his business partner, Perry Santillo, defrauded hundreds of investors out of more than $115 million dollars while doing business as “Lucian Development”.
Federal prosecutors say the men used money from prior investors to purchase investment businesses, then pitched bogus investments to different victims. Most were older, ready to retire, and trusted Parris and Santillo to invest their retirement fund. Santillo was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison.
Parris previously pleaded guilty to those charges in 2021.
The judge did not have any sympathy for Parris. After the charges against him for the Ponzi scheme, Parris then offered to sell the veterans administration $125 million worth of N95 masks, and attempted to get a $3 million dollar payment upfront, knowing he didn’t have the masks.
“Which the court considered, that’s why Mr. Parris received more than Mr. Santillo,” the FBI said.
The victims in the investment fraud case all asked for Parris to receive the highest maximum sentence.
“They put their life savings in the trust of Mr. Parris, assuming that these were safe investments. They don’t have money to support themselves, and won’t have money they saved for their retirement. Their dreams have been destroyed,” the FBI added.
Parris will also owe $160 million dollars in restitution.