ALBANY — A Troy businessman who ran a nearly $5 million Ponzi scheme that conned dozens of investors could face more than 10 years in federal prison when sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court for securities fraud.
Matthew J. Ryan, 46, of Cropseyville, created a bogus financial firm, American Integrity Financial Co., to dupe investors, many of whom were senior citizens using retirement money. Victims included an entire volunteer fire department in Greene County.
Ryan led the victims to believe they were investing in “guaranteed” three-year fixed rate contracts — and promised an annual rate of return between 3.85 percent and 9.35 percent. In reality, he used $4.8 million of their money to refinance his real estate business, identified as Prime Rate & Return, pay personal expenses such as loans for luxury cars and repay other investors in “Ponzi-like fashion,” court papers said.
Ryan posed as a mere representative for American Financial, which he claimed was a large firm with numerous employees based in midtown Manhattan. He used a mail drop at 208 E. 51st St. in Manhattan to make it appear the firm had an office. He used a toll-free number, which was actually an answering service that sent calls to him. And he concocted phony names of American Financial employees in correspondence with investors.
His scheme lasted between 2002 and 2010, when Ryan’s office was raided by the FBI. He initially faced charges that included eight counts of federal wire fraud.
He pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to one count of securities fraud before Chief District Judge Norman Mordue in Syracuse. His plea agreement stated Ryan used tactics that were both “deceptive” and “manipulative.”
The crime technically carries up to 20 years in prison, but Ryan will likely receive a far lesser sentence under federal sentencing guidelines. In a memo to the judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Capezza recommended Ryan receive between 97 and 121 months in prison — eight to 10 years, plus two months.
Capezza noted Ryan scammed more than 50 victims, which included the Oak Hill Durham Volunteer Fire Co., which lost its $364,000 investment with Ryan. Capezza requested Ryan pay victims’ restitution and forfeiture, but agreed with a probation assessment that Ryan is unable to pay a fine.