Ex-Viking indicted in Ponzi scheme

Published 9:39 am Thursday, April 16, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minnesota Vikings tight end Stu Voigt is charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy and fraud in an alleged Ponzi scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Wednesday.

The government accuses Voigt, 66, and another man, Jeffrey Gardner, 61, of using a real estate scheme to defraud investors.

According to the indictment and court documents, between 2005 and 2007 Gardner and Voigt raised money from investors in connection with Gardner’s business, Hennessey Financial. Investors were promised returns of between 10 percent and 20 percent annually. But the indictment alleges Gardner, Voigt and others misrepresented Hennessey’s financial circumstances to investors.

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Prosecutors allege that when Hennessey was failing, Gardner and Voigt created new companies, opened bank accounts in the names of new companies, transferred funds from Hennessey accounts and took other steps to hide income and assets from investors, creditors and the government.

As part of the alleged scheme, multiple payments of over $50,000 each were drawn from a Hennessey Financial account and made payable to Voigt, the indictment alleged. During that time, Voigt was chairman of the board of First Commercial Bank.

According to the charges, to keep Hennessey afloat and to provide funds to funnel back to Voigt, Gardner and Voigt got loans for Gardner from the bank without disclosing Gardner’s financial situation.

Voigt faces charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and making false statements.

Attorneys for Voigt and Gardner declined to comment Wednesday. Voigt has denied wrongdoing.

The U.S. Department of Justice told Voigt in 2012 that he was under investigation for bank and wire fraud.

In 2013, former Viking and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Yary settled a lawsuit against Voigt, his former teammate, over some bad investments. Terms of the settlement were confidential.

Yary and others sued Voigt in 2011, alleging he fraudulently got friends in make high-risk investments between 2002 and 2007 by telling them there was no risk and he would personally guarantee the money. The lawsuit says that instead, Voigt received commissions and finders fees, while investors lost money.

Voigt played for the Vikings from 1970 to 1980.