Accused Ponzi schemer James Nicholson is taking the same road as New City accountant David Friehling – a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Nicholson, 42, is accused of scamming $160 million from more than 400 investors through his hedge funds. He was arrested in February and has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges onFriday, according to a legal document filed in federal court.
Nicholson, who grew up in Haverstraw and lived in a multi-million-dollar mansion in Saddle River, N.J., has been charged in a four-count federal indictment with one count each of securities fraud, investment advisor fraud, mail fraud, and structuring. Details concerning his guilty plea won’t be available until he appears in U.S. District Court on Friday. His attorney didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Nicholson, a father of three young sons who had lived in Stony Point, is accused of soliciting millions of dollars from investors through deceit, hyping the value of his hedge funds and using their money for himself. Many of his investors – including friends and family – have said they invested their life-savings, college funds, trust funds and retirement funds in the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the smooth-talking Nicholson, who was known to swear on his children that his clients would make money and their investments were safe.
Friehling, 49, of New City didn’t run an investment portfolio. He was an accountant who was paid close to $15,000 a month to audit the financial books of Bernard Madoff. Friehling’s late father-in-law had been friends with Madoff.
Early last month, Friehling took a plea last month nine counts of security fraud, investor advisory fruad and other charges for falsely certifying that Madoff’s financial statements were valid for 17 years. Friehling never condicted an independent audit as required, thus facilitating the cover up of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. He’s scheduled for sentencing in January, but that could be adjourned since he is cooperating with federal officials.
Nicholson faces a maximum of 65 years in prison if convicted of all the charges, though he could receive far less under sentencing guidelines. He also faces fines topping $6 million. The indictment also seeks to seize more than $150 million in assets and five properties from Nicholson, who ran investment offices in Pearl River and midtown Manhattan.
While hundreds of investors lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Nicholson invested in an airplane, and bought a $27 million oceanfront house in Southampton, a $4.75 million condo in Palm Beach, Fla., an $8.5 million cono in Manhattan and rented luxury business offices in Pearl River and Manhattan.