FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 18, 2010
Contact: Robert Elder, Communications, Texas State Securities Board, at 512-305-8386
Jury Hands Down 99-Year Sentence for Architect of Multistate Securities Fraud
AUSTIN — A Collin County state District Court jury on Thursday sentenced Edward S. Digges Jr. to 99 years in state prison for orchestrating a multistate, fraudulent investment scheme that involved the lease of credit card and debit card terminals.
The jury's sentence came after a four-week trial that resulted in the Feb. 4 conviction of Digges for aggregated securities fraud. The Texas State Securities Board and the Collin County district attorney's office prosecuted Digges, a former Maryland lawyer who was convicted of federal mail fraud in 1990.
Digges controlled an entity called the Millennium Terminal Investment Program. It offered securities that were purportedly based on the revenue generated by point-of-sale terminals that merchants use to process credit and debit transactions. Digges raised at least $10 million from about 130 Texas investors, the majority of whom were elderly.
"Edward Digges has a long history of defrauding some of our most vulnerable citizens, and this sentence ensures he will never again do so," Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voigt Crawford said. "The conviction will not return money to investors, however. This case highlights the importance of checking the background of any financial professional you choose to do business with, and the importance of obtaining full disclosure before investing."
Crawford recognized the Collin County DA's office for its efforts to ensure Digges was brought to justice.
To attract Texas investors, Digges employed a sales force made up largely of insurance agents. Investors were told they would receive a monthly payment of $50 for each terminal they purchased – equivalent to a 12% annual return. Millennium also said investors could sell the terminals back to the company after five years, recouping their initial investment in the equipment and the 12% annual returns for five years. The company said it had established a reserve fund to ensure these payments to investors.
According to evidence presented in the case, no such reserve fund existed, and the Millennium program was in financial turmoil. The terminals were not producing enough revenue to pay investors, and the program operated at a loss from the start – a fact concealed from investors. The majority of lease payments made to investors came from other investors, not from money generated by placement of the terminals. Company principals also used investors' money to pay their personal expenses.
Digges also concealed his background and the degree of control he exercised over Millennium. He failed to disclose he spent two years in federal prison following his mail fraud conviction in 1990; the conviction stemmed from a scheme to overbill clients at his law firm. Nor did Digges tell investors that he had a civil judgment against him for $3.6 million in a suit related to the overbilling scheme.
In addition, Digges has a long list of federal and state regulatory sanctions imposed against him for selling investments in the Millennium program. The Texas State Securities Board began investigating Digges in mid-2005 after newspaper advertisements for the Millennium program appeared in newspapers marketed to senior citizens.
For more information on the Texas State Securities Board: