A former Mount Prospect man who swindled friends and family, including his own parents, out of more than $6.5 million was sentenced Wednesday to five years and nine months in federal prison.
Henry Meyer, 47, whom federal prosecutors described as "one of the most brazen con men to have been prosecuted in this district," pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to mail fraud for defrauding investors over seven years by misrepresenting the return on their investment in a phony scheme and using their money for personal expenses.
Meyer, who received credit for 25 months in custody, was also ordered to pay $6.5 million in restitution, said a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. He must complete at least 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Meyer spent more than $615,000 in restaurants, $107,000 on groceries and $92,000 on clothing from 2010 to 2016, according to the sentencing memorandum by Assistant U.S. attorney Sunil R. Harjani.
Meyer "created a web of lies so strong" he persuaded friends and family to invest their life savings in his phony European Derivative Investment Program, according to Harjani's memorandum. Moreover, authorities say, Meyer "wrote an escape plan to leave the United States to a country without an extradition treaty to avoid capture."
Victims included Meyer's parents, who lost more than $1.19 million, and their business partners in a small Arlington Heights company. The partners, a couple from Mount Prospect, lost more than $2.5 million -- the most of the 14 victims, who also included Henry Meyer's relatives, a friend, and Meyer's father's landlord.
"It's hard to imagine a financial fraud scheme more egregious than one that defrauds a defendant's parents, uncles, aunts and cousins," prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memorandum, in which they describe investors as mostly elderly residents of Illinois and Wisconsin.
According to prosecutors, Meyer told victims their money was invested in a program he claimed was based on the failure of the economies of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. He told victims European governments and the U.S. Federal Reserve were involved in the program, which he claimed produced 600 percent returns, prosecutors said.
Meyer further informed victims there was a "full guarantee on payment" of their investment, according to prosecutors, and sent them letters in which he falsely represented the program's success. He continue to bilk victims by telling them their investments were on the verge of success but he needed another cash infusion and they would become millionaires, prosecutors said.
In reality, there was no program, prosecutors said: "It was just him, in his apartment, spending and squandering all of the investor funds." They say Meyer spent more than $1.4 million on rent, utilities, car expenses, dermatology treatments and restaurants, where he reportedly tipped servers hundreds of dollars.
The remaining $5 million Meyer traded on his TD Ameritrade account, prosecutors said.
After investors began questioning him, Meyer "tried to find new ways to stall" them and engaged in a Ponzi-like scheme in which he used new investor funds to make payments to old investors, prosecutors said.
When FBI agents arrested him at his apartment in Coral Gables, Florida, on April 4, 2016, they discovered a document titled "Battle Plan," with details on how to "escape the U.S. and evade law enforcement" by relocating to countries including Thailand, Singapore, Korea and the Bahamas, prosecutors said.
Meyer was not a poor man desperate to support his family or a legitimate business owner who fell on hard times, wrote Harjani in the sentencing memorandum.
"Pure and simple Meyer is a fraudster, and he set out to deceive his victims so he could live a cushy life and play out some fanciful, ridiculous trading strategy that lost over $7 million in the course of seven years while destroying many lives."