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Financial adviser to celebrities charged in $59 million ponzi scheme

From Amy Sabha, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Starr initially charged with $30 million scheme
  • Indictment says Starr diverted money to himself, family, friends
  • Starr also used direct control over clients' assets to transfer money, government says
  • Former New York City Council president also charged in scheme

New York (CNN) -- A financial adviser to celebrities pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he defrauded investors and clients of up to $59 million through a combination of wire fraud, securities fraud, fraud by an investment adviser and money laundering.

Kenneth Starr has been jailed since his arrest last month. At the time, prosecutors alleged that he had carried out a $30 million Ponzi scheme on some of his clients, but a new indictment unsealed Thursday raised the total to $59 million.

Starr was remanded without bail until a June 21 pretrial hearing.

He was arrested originally on May 27, and, according to prosecutors, Starr attempted to evade arrest by hiding from federal agents. Prosecutors say Starr's wife told agents he wasn't home and when they encountered his 12-year-old son at the top of the stairs, he, too, said his father was not home. But, prosecutors said, the agents found Starr "cowering in a closet."

Starr, an attorney, is head of New York-based Starr and Co. and Starr Investment Advisors LLC, an asset management and financial planning company for high net-worth and celebrity clients.

"In the less than two weeks since Kenneth Starr's arrest, this investigation has maintained its velocity. The scope of alleged fraud has doubled and is now up to $59 million, and counting," Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York said in a statement.

The government alleges that Starr used two main schemes to defraud his clients. In one scheme, he solicited money "to invest in what he purported to be sure deals," but diverted all or some of the money to himself or to other investments in which he, his wife and/or close associates held financial interests.

In the second scheme, Starr used direct control over his clients' assets to transfer funds to himself, his family and/or associates, then transferred money from one client to another when a client requested a payment Starr could not meet, prosecutors said.

The complaint did not name the victims of Starr's alleged schemes.

The arrests come nearly a year after Bernard Madoff was convicted of conducting the largest ponzi scheme in history, defrauding investors out of $50 billion.

Andrew Stein, the former president of the New York City Council who was alleged to have been a recipient of some of Starr's schemes, is also charged in the case with making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service and federal officers. Stein was released on a $250,000 co-signed bond and ordered back to court June 28. He did not appear in court Friday and was not mentioned in the new indictment.