Man pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme, sentenced to 8 years

William and Cheryl Chaucer
William and Cheryl Chaucer

By Kiran Chawla - email

AMITE, LA (WAFB) - Ponzi schemer William "Bill" Chaucer pled guilty Wednesday to using money from hundreds of investors to live out his lavish lifestyle.

Investigators said Chaucer and his wife, Cheryl, ran several investment firms for more than two decades, bilking investors for over $11 million. The money was spent on everything from Mardi Gras balls to plastic surgeries and beauty pageants.

More than a year after Chaucer was arrested for swindling nearly 200 investors of millions, he pled guilty in a matter of 15 minutes. With handcuffs on, a silent Chaucer began his eight-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to 22 counts of securities fraud. Prosecutors said it was a Ponzi scheme. He took money from people promising big returns.

"She's certainly not happy seeing her husband go off and do eight years," said Ralph Capitelli, Cheryl Chaucer's attorney. "She doesn't feel she did commit the offense, but it was in her best interest."

His wife allegedly took part, but got away with no prison time. She only has to serve a year of in-home confinement after entering a "best interest" plea. Victims think she got off easy.

"That hurts," said Ricky Howes, a victim of the scheme. "That hurts because I think she was the driving force behind this whole thing."

"I feel like the wrong person got convicted and is going away for a while," said A.J. Adolph, another victim.

"Not enough for Mrs. Chaucer for sure," added Terri Chaucer, a relative who fell victim to the scheme. "Even a 30-day sentence incarceration would have placated those victims."

Terri Chaucer is William Chaucer's sister-in-law. Her family invested with the Ponzi schemer for 25 years. She said it's definitely a financial torture, but more than that, it's taken an emotional toll on her family.

"He took money from my two kids. That was their father's disability and life insurance. He had suffered eight-and-a-half years with a brain tumor. That was Bill's little brother," Terri Chaucer explained.

While many victims are not pleased with the sentences, District Attorney Scott Perrilloux is satisfied.

"We have very serious violent crimes that don't sometimes result in an eight-year sentence, so we felt like it was a good result," said Perrilloux.

"I think there are a lot of good people who were mistreated and have gone through a hard time this last year-and-a-half and I think everyone looks forward to moving on with peace in mind," said Donnie Chaucer, a nephew.

The judge did not allow victim statements, but he did talk to many of them. They said a guilty plea from Chaucer provides the needed closure.

The judge has ordered the probation department to look into the Chaucers' finances to determine restitution. It will report back to the Judge Doug Hughes on March 16, 2011.

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