Summarized by Kent Larsen
Prosecutor Claims LDS Woman Ran Ponzi Scam
Honolulu HI Star-Bulletin 31Mar00 D2
By Rod Ohira: Star-Bulletin
LAIE, HAWAII -- An LDS woman who says she "lives my religion seven
days a week," has been charged by U.S. prosecutors with leading an
International Ponzi scheme that allegedly solicited more than $40
million. Montez Salamasina Ottley, 55, was charged in a 100-count
indictment for mail or wire fraud, money laundering and other
offenses that allegedly occurred between June 1997 and October 1998.
Ottley was charged along with John Wright, 40; Shyuan Tan, 33;
Stephen Marn, 65; Helen A. Schlapak, 59; and Rande Scott Worcester,
43. The offenses could result in lifetime prison sentences for each
and fines totaling $2.75 million.
The charges are in the wake of the guilty plea December 20 of Paul
Lazzaro, 56, who is scheduled to be sentenced for his crime on
October 16th. Lazzaro also gave up more than $400,000 and two cars to
police. Lazzaro was allegedly part of the "Cayman Islands Investment
Program" which promised fees or interest of 8 percent a week for 13
weeks on money that the group claimed was invested with the Cayman
Islands government and banks, according to U.S. Attorney for the
district of Hawaii Steven Alm. According to Alm, the money paid out
to investors actually came from subsequent investors.
The scheme attracted more than 4,000 investors from Hawaii, American
Samoa, Japan, Singapore and the U.S., most of whom made cash
investments of $1,000 or more. "This was a house of cards which fell
that damaged so many lives," said Alm. He says he was shocked to find
that investment meetings were held at churches and in people's living
rooms. Prosecutors say they have recovered more than $2 million, and
are trying to figure out a system for distributing the money to the
Ottley, who is also an activist for Hawaiian sovereignty, chose not
to accept a court-appointed attorney at her arraignment on March
30th, and refused to acknowledge the charges against her, telling the
judge, "I am not under your jurisdiction." She says she is a "citizen
of the Hawaiian Kingdom." "I'm not about to flee. I'm not a bad
person. I've given everything away to the people. There will be
justice served. I will fight to the bitter end."
Ottley's "friend and counsel," Aran Alton Ardaiz, says that Ottley is
innocent. He says she "had no idea the man (Lazzaro) she was working
under was a Ponzi schemer."