GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4)– A federal judge sentenced confessed Greenwood Village Ponzi schemer Dan Rudden to 10 years plus one month in prison, saying what Rudden did to an estimated 175 victims “broke my heart.”
“You violated our trust,” said Bruce Sturtevant, one of a dozen victims who testified to the financial devastation Rudden’s scheme inflicted. Sturtevant said he lost about $200,000 in the Ponzi scheme and would not be able to help pay for his grandchildren’s college tuition.
Another victim, Sheila Woodcock, addressed Rudden directly during the two-hour hearing saying, ”You’re despicable, you’re a joke. I don’t know how you can live with yourself.”
Rudden started a company in 2001, Financial Visions, which provided funeral funding services to nearly 600 funeral homes and cemeteries across the country. For years, he said it was a viable and thriving business returning 12% interest to investors. But he said in about 2010 or 2011, fewer funeral homes were signing up, yet he continued to take in millions in investments for the next seven years, using the new money to pay dividends to earlier investors. Government investigators have indicated they don’t believe the business model was ever profitable.
In 2018, Rudden confessed Financial Visions had operated as a Ponzi scheme for the past seven years and that it had collapsed, and all the investors’ money was gone. He initially estimated losses of $55 million but government accounting pegs the losses at about $19 million. He had pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.
“I am sad and ashamed,” Rudden told investors in federal court during his sentencing hearing. “This is what it has come to. I did a lot of wrong.”
He said he betrayed investors and his own family, “I became a criminal… I am truly sorry. I betrayed each of you and it sucks.”
Most of the victims who testified said they had no sympathy for Rudden, 72, who has six children and 19 grandchildren. Victim Jeff Cain said he lost so much money he can no longer pay for dental work.
“It’s affected generations to come,” said Cain.
Brian McCoy, a former deputy District Attorney in Adams County for 27 years, told the judge he lost $479,000 he invested with Rudden. He said that was his life savings that he had socked away.
“It was everything I had,” said McCoy, who said he feels anger and depression over the losses.
Judge Christine Arguello rejected Rudden’s pleas for a lesser sentence and his request for 15 days to get his affairs in order and ordered him directly to prison Thursday afternoon. His victims stood in court and watched as U.S. Marshals handcuffed Rudden and led him away.
In addition to 121 months in prison, Rudden was also given three years probation and ordered to repay victims $19 million. He has indicated he has no money left. Rudden told the judge he would not appeal his sentence.