Businessman pleads guilty in $50M Ponzi scheme

LUBBOCK, TX Benny Lee Judah pleaded guilty in federal court in Lubbock to one count each of money laundering and sale and delivery after sale of unregistered securities.

Prosecutors say the Ponzi scheme involved the swindling of about 250 investors.

Judah's attorney, Robert N. Nebb, declined to comment.

Judah faces up to 20 years in prison on the money laundering count and five years on the securities count. Each count carries a $250,000 fine. A statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Dallas says he also must pay $48.4 million in restitution.

No sentencing date has been set.

Judah, who owned restaurants and developed land and real estate, was charged by a criminal information document Tuesday. It alleged that he devised a scheme that swindled investors by promising them 10 percent return on investments in Excel Lease Fund Inc. between October 2005 and April 2009.

In April, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud complaint against Judah, which led to a judge freezing his assets and placing his business operations in receivership. The SEC complaint accused Judah of selling $40 million in unregistered securities between January 2006 and March and misusing the proceeds.

Judah acknowledged no wrongdoing in consent agreements.

Judah, an accountant, is not a licensed securities broker, court documents show.

He has faced civil allegations before.

In 2001, Judah was ordered to pay $50,000 in civil penalties after the SEC filed a complaint alleging he and his company, Excel Leasing, sold $32 million in unregistered securities to investors nationwide between 1987 and 2000.

Judah did not admit to or deny the accusations in settling this case.

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