DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former Iowa investment adviser was sentenced Wednesday to up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony theft for taking more than $330,000 from seven people, mostly friends and acquaintances, claiming he was safely investing it in a foreign bank that paid high returns.
Instead of investing the money David William Johnson deposited it into his own account and used it to buy cars and to support his wife and 10 children, said Assistant Iowa Attorney General Rob Sand, who prosecuted the case.
Johnson, 57, an Iowa native who had moved to Keller, Texas, about five years ago, was ordered by District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe to repay the money.
The sentence resolves theft charges in Carroll, Kossuth, Pocahontas and Webster counties and includes taking money from a teacher, a farmer and a day-care worker. He also took $40,000 from an elderly Fort Dodge woman living in a nursing home who signed over power of attorney entrusting Johnson to handle her financial affairs.
Johnson, who grew up in Humboldt, used relationships to con people he grew up with and family friends into giving him their money to invest, Sand said.
“Generally, he claimed an economic meltdown was imminent and claimed to have a special connection to the International Bank of Meekamui,” Sand said in court documents. An expert witness in fast money schemes in the South Pacific told prosecutors that the bank is the latest operating name of a Ponzi scheme based in Papua, New Guinea.
Johnson promised to invest the money in safe gold-backed currency in an account that offered a 3 percent monthly interest rate but bank statements show he placed it in his own accounts, Sand said.
Johnson’s scams began in 2012 and lasted through 2014.
His victims include teacher Carla Schaefer, 65, of Coon Rapids, who told Johnson during a victim impact statement in court Wednesday that she believed him to be an honest professional adviser she entrusted to help reinvest her mother’s estate. Schaefer lost $150,000 and said she feels like she failed her parents.
“I thought I was working with the best of the best with you David. Now I feel like such a loser to be connected to a con artist,” she said.
Lois Roose, of Allison, gave Johnson $5,000 to invest because he discussed scripture and talked of traveling to churches to sing.
“Why be such a hypocrite by calling yourself a man of faith?” she said.
Sand argued for prison time instead of probation to send a strong message of deterrence to those who would consider financial crimes.
“This defendant is not someone who made a single poor decision to steal and instantly regretted it,” Sand wrote in a court document. “Instead, this defendant’s acts demonstrate an enduring attitude of shocking greed and callousness.”
Johnson’s attorney, Joel Baxter, did not immediately return a message.