A guest blog post from investigative reporter Jennifer Bjorhus:
Just unsealed: a fraud indictment against Jeffrey A. Gardner.
Ok, he’s not a household name. But the defunct Minnesota real estate developer was the eye of an investment whirlpool the past few years that former investors say was a con.
Gardner was first identified as “Mr. X,” by federal bank regulators who were going after former Vikings star Stu Voigt. Voigt and a Twin Cities lawyer named Todd Duckson were also involved with Gardner.
“There are a lot of people who lost a lot of money in this and by indicting one of the ringleaders it goes a long way to helping these people get over their loss,” said Minneapolis layer Kevin Magnuson, who represented some unhappy investors. “It will never bring the money back.”
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gardner’s companies built homes, townhouses, apartment buildings and waterfront property, among other things, primarily in Minnesota but also in Wisconsin, Florida and elsewhere.
Now, according to an indictment handed up in February 2013 but only unsealed this week, a federal grand jury in Minnesota accused Gardner of four counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and monetary transactions in criminally derived property.
The indictment says that from 2005 through September 2009, Gardner masterminded a fraud scheme in connection with several entities, including Hennessey Financial LLC. During that time Gardner and others allegedly misrepresented important information as they solicited investments from people for commercial real estate financing, promising returns between 10 and 20 percent a year.
Instead, Gardner was allegedly using the funds to repay prior investors and pay off pre-existing debts, among other things.
Gardner allegedly continued the Ponzi scheme with a new company as Hennessey was collapsing.
Gardner’s Minneapolis lawyer, Dan Guerrero, said hasn’t met with Gardner yet. He said Gardner lived in Hopkins and has been arrested. An arraignment hearing is set for Monday afternoon in St. Paul.