WXXI AM News

Rochester man started $100 million Ponzi scheme

Oct 7, 2019

Credit James Brown / WXXI

A Rochester man pleaded guilty Monday to bilking at least 1,000 people around the country out of more than $100 million.

U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said financial adviser Perry Santillo ran a Ponzi scheme for about a decade. Kennedy said the scheme started when Santillo and an unnamed partner lost millions in investor money in another Ponzi scheme back in 2007. 

“Mr. Santillo and his partner transformed themselves from victims of a Ponzi scheme into operators of a Ponzi scheme,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said Santillo and his partner acquired and supersized the scheme. According to prosecutors, they bought and operated legitimate investment banking operations to use as a front, to lure in investors. The scheme collapsed under its own weight once they couldn’t pay people back, said Kennedy. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Field says Santillo used the money to fuel his lavish lifestyle, including owning $1.2 million worth of suits, and numerous luxury cars. Field compared his lifestyle to Santillo.

"You know my wife has thrown birthday parties for me from time to time, like when I turned 50," said Field "It wasn’t a $150 thousand birthday party in a casino in Vegas. I also didn’t have a rap song done in my honor commissioned by myself." 

Santillo faces up to 20 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for March 6.

Santillo (Perry) Plea by WXXI News on Scribd