A Columbia Falls woman accused of operating a Ponzi scheme that took more than $1.5 million from 28 different investors pleaded not guilty to five felony charges on Sept. 29 in Flathead County District Court.
The hearing came a month after Catherine Ann Finberg was charged with theft by embezzlement, failure to register as a securities broker, dealer or salesperson, failure to register securities, operating a pyramid promotional scheme, and two counts of fraudulent securities practices, all felonies.
If convicted, Finberg could face up to 70 years in prison and more than $185,000 in fines.
Earlier this year, Finberg’s investment accounts were frozen at the request of attorneys with the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance who were investigating the Columbia Falls woman. Although Finberg had not been charged yet, the attorneys believed they had enough evidence of illegal activity and wanted to stop her before she harmed anyone else.
“Given Finberg’s recent and continual activities involving these accounts, failure to freeze them could result in continuing, immediate, and irreparable injury to the investors by depriving them of sources from which to recover their investment funds,” attorneys wrote in an affidavit supporting the restraining order.
A Ponzi scheme involves a person paying investors using money obtained from later investors, rather than from any profits earned.
According to court documents, between 2008 and 2016, Finberg, who has served as an assistant coach for the Columbia Falls High School girls basketball team, took at least $1.5 million from 28 different people, who expected her to invest the funds on their behalf. According to charging documents, at least four of those investors were “vulnerable persons” because of their advanced age and one was mentally disabled.
Finberg is expected to stand trial in February 2017.
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