BANGOR, Maine — A jury in U.S. District Court found a Stockton Springs man guilty Wednesday of soliciting money from several individuals, funds he then invested in an international money scam which officials say didn’t exist.
Todd Denson, 50, was convicted of 13 counts of wire fraud — the second time in four years that he has been implicated in such a scheme. Denson spent 14 months in federal prison in 2007 and 2008 after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail and wire fraud.
Denson will be sentenced at a later date on his latest conviction but could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Jurors deliberated for nearly 3½ hours Wednesday after hearing almost two full days of testimony from witnesses called by Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy, including a U.S. Secret Service agent who has investigated Denson for years.
Denson’s attorney, Virginia Villa, did not call any witnesses and did not ask Denson to testify in his own defense.
The trial centered on whether Denson intentionally defrauded people when he asked them for money with a promise that he would pay it back. For several years, dating back to before Denson’s first conviction, the man has been involved in an Internet scam that many consumers received e-mails about but few followed through on.
The premise is simple: The e-mail recipient is instructed to send a certain amount of money overseas, usually to an African country, in order to access a much larger pool of money, usually millions of dollars. Similar scams were operated through mailed letters and fax machines for decades before they moved to the Internet in the 1990s.
Denson evidently became convinced the scam was real. In 2006, he claimed he sent $60,000 of his own money overseas with the promise that more than $9 million had his name on it. When Denson learned that he needed to send more money, he began asking individuals to “invest,” but was untruthful about what the investment was.
The U.S. Secret Service first began investigating Denson in 2006. The man later confessed he misappropriated nearly $80,000 from several residents of Cumberland County, where Denson used to live and own a window-washing business.
In order to attract investors, Denson fabricated stories about how he had made millions designing window-washing equipment or how he stood to inherit millions from his long-lost father.
He later pleaded guilty to seven counts of mail and wire fraud and was sentenced in Portland in June 2007 to 18 months in federal prison. He served about 14 months, but court testimony revealed he began engaging in the same scam almost immediately after his release.
In most instances, Denson was able to document his alleged wealth. In one case, he played a phone message to a potential investor from an overseas bank that confirmed his wealth, witness testimony revealed. In another, Denson told Secret Service agents that he traveled overseas and physically saw the money.
Three reputed victims testified Tuesday morning that Denson persuaded them to give him money with the promise that he would pay them back more than what they gave.
One victim, Gary Plante of Oakland, was supposed to get a private loan from Denson of $185,000 so he could buy a home. Plante deposited $5,000 into an escrow account at Denson’s request to help facilitate the loan. Nearly a year has passed and Plante has not gotten the loan or his $5,000 back.
Another victim, Camillia Arelia, whose hometown was not available, knew Denson socially and at one point offered to give him money on the stipulation that he pay it back. Denson assured her that he had millions overseas that he could access. Like Plante, she was never repaid.
“Evidence showed this defendant defrauded and cheated [victims]. He made promises he knew he could not and would not keep,” McCarthy said in his closing argument.
Villa said her client still believes there is money in an overseas account for him, and she told jurors that the prosecution never proved that Denson didn’t have the money.