By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org
HONOLULU — A politically connected man who ran a $1.5 million Ponzi scheme will spend 48 months in prison, a judge has ruled.
The man, Jason Pascua, must repay his victims — at least 34 people — more than $1 million when released, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said.
Five of Pascua’s victims spoke in federal court Thursday.
“You repeatedly lied to work this scheme, not to strangers but to family and friends. Most distressing, you betrayed your fellow comrades in arms who would rely on you in battle. … That betrayal runs particularly deep,” Kobayashi said.
Pascua, 39, was well-educated, with a wife and 2-year-old child. He served in the Army Reserve.
The society pages of MidWeek magazine showed Pascua at events with some of Hawaii’s most well-known politicians, including former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and prominent Democratic activist Amy Agbayani.
In 2010, Pascua joined the Democratic Party of Hawaii to run for House District 48 on the promise of “real change.”
He announced his candidacy, built a website and started a Facebook page created but, according to news reports, party officials challenged his qualifications because his membership was not in good standing 60 days before filing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne told the judge that, other than greed, there was no reason for the crime and blatant disregard for family, friends and society.
“He wanted to play in the streets of Las Vegas,” Osborne said. “He became nothing more than a thief.”
FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, who investigated the Ponzi scheme, said the sentence for Pascua “seems about right.”
“We want to definitely send a message to him that this kind of activity is not permissible in Hawaii. But we also want to make sure that Mr. Pascua can some day get out of prison and become a productive member of society so he can pay back the million dollars he owes to his victims,” Simon said.
Simon said not a dime of the money invested with Pascua went into any kind of income-producing business venture but, instead, was spent at Las Vegas nightclubs and casinos.
“The largest victim is a single mother who invested her entire life savings of $225,000 with Pascua only to lose it all. She now has nothing, and she has to start over.”
Pascua is living in Arizona and has requested he serve his federal jail sentence there. He is scheduled to surrender himself to authorities next month.
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