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7 years in prison for Ponzi scheme defendant

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A Manitowoc man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for a $3 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded 37 people, many of whom were elderly.

Sixty-eight-year-old James Nickels pleaded guilty earlier to wire fraud. Prosecutors say Nickels convinced his family, friend and neighbors to invest in his sham business. The scheme pays profits to early investors with funds from more recent investors.

Twelve persons who lost money, or whose deceased family members lost money because of the fraud, testified at Thursday’s sentencing in federal court. They talked about the financial and emotional harm and sense of betrayal that the defendant’s actions caused them.

Judge William Griesbach told Nickels he had committed an “evil, horrible” crime that was “grotesque” and had “high impact.” Griesbach reprimanded him for a lack of remorse.

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