Point Reyes Light publisher Robert Israel Plotkin — a defendant in a federal bankruptcy case growing out of a $77 million Ponzi scheme — will be allowed to keep some money swindled from other people.

That was the word this past week from Plotkin’s lawyer, Robert H. Powsner of Point Reyes Station. Powsner did not reveal how much of his profits from the Ponzi scheme Plotkin can retain, and several of us are now endeavoring to find out the amount. As soon as we do, Powsner’s long and rambling letter will be published in full.

Here is the essence of the case, as this site reported earlier. The Ponzi scheme, which lasted from 1998 to 2003, was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office. The ringleaders, Moshe Leichner and Zvi Leichner, are now serving time in prison; a US bankruptcy trustee is trying — so far without success — to get at money the Leichners squirreled away in one Swiss and two Israeli bank accounts; and the Justice Department has warned Moshe and Zvi Leichner they may be deported.

The Leichners’ Ponzi scheme operated under the name Midland Euro, and the US Justice Department notes, “The Leichners told their investors that Midland Euro would invest their funds in foreign currencies which Midland Euro would then trade on the international currency market for profit. Although the terms of the investments tended to vary slightly among victims, generally the Leichners claimed Midland Euro would generate guaranteed monthly profits of between 2% and 4%.”

100_0459.jpgThink of it: “guaranteed” 24% –to-48% cash profits annually in the high-risk foreign-currency-exchange market. How money-hungry does one have to be to fail to notice something suspicious?

CPA Grant Newton, an expert witness hired by the bankruptcy court, explained the swindle this way. The Leichners until 2003 “operated a Ponzi scheme: namely, a phony investment arrangement whereby earlier investors are paid fictitious profits from the funds of later investors.”

A US bankruptcy trustee has reported that in 2004, he “filed over 150 adversary proceedings…. These proceedings seek recovery of funds in excess of $20 million in pre-petition transfers made by [Moshe and Zvi Leichner] to insiders and other parties.”

As Powsner explains it, “Mr. Plotkin [seen here] was one of thousands of passive investors into a huge investment scam. He had never heard of or had any contact with the crooks. He was one of about 150 who were lucky to get paid back — with an investment return — before the crooks were outed.

“Because of a bankruptcy-statute technicality, he could have been liable to pay back the money, and he and 150 or so other investors were sued by the trustee for that.”

Wow! Attorney Powsner actually calls a law requiring repayment of ill-gotten gains merely a “technicality.”

The bankruptcy trustee last summer notified “defendant Robert Israel Plotkin” and his lawyer Powsner their case would come up at a hearing in October, but Powsner now reports they were able to skip the hearing.

“When [Plotkin] asked me to help,” writes Powsner, “I quickly negotiated a settlement (without any hearings or meetings) in which [Plotkin] had to return a portion — and only a portion — of the profits he made.”

Such a deal! There aren’t many lawyers who would brag about helping a client hold onto “fictitious profits [that came] from the funds of later investors,” who had been swindled.

Addendum: Although Powsner has recently justified his untrue statements in unrelated court filings as merely the result of his “forgetfulness,” he wants it known that he won’t begin his 79th year until this fall. This site had erroneously given his current age as 78 when he is, in fact, 77. My apologies to the bad old boy.