Plymouth money manager admits to misgivings about scheme.
Jason "Bo" Beckman spent three days testifying in his own defense in a Minneapolis federal courtroom about how he was taken advantage of by convicted fraudsters Trevor Cook and Christopher Pettengill.
Beckman said he was misled by his two associates and only discovered that they had been running a $194 million Ponzi scheme well after it collapsed in July 2009.
But following just two hours of tense cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney David MacLaughlin on Monday, many of Beckman's explanations were under fire.
"I'm telling you the truth. The truth will defeat what you've made up!" Beckman snapped at one point during the prosecutor's questioning.
Earlier, Beckman's attorney, Douglas Altman, had ticked off the 26 counts his client faces, including wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, and filing false tax returns. Some involved allegations that he was involved in the bilking of funds from elderly clients. Others involved an alleged attempt to mislead the National Hockey League about his finances as he attempted to buy a $5 million piece of the Minnesota Wild. Beckman denied each charge, claiming that he didn't even know some of the investors referred to in the complaints.
"Did you engage in or participate in a Ponzi scheme run by Trevor Cook ... that defrauded investors of millions of dollars?" Altman asked.
"I did not," Beckman said, choking up.
Under cross-examination however, Beckman, 42, of Plymouth, admitted that his claims of being ranked "per a Morningstar comparative study" as a top portfolio manager may have been misleading, given that he did the analysis himself. But he denied MacLaughlin's assertion that he has "a long and consistent track record" of dishonesty.
MacLaughlin kept pressing. Under persistent questioning, Beckman admitted that he was "disenrolled" from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1989 after lying to an honor board. He and some other cadets had spent the night off of the base after they'd gone drinking and crashed a car.
"The honor board threw you out of school not for crashing a car, but for lying about it," MacLaughlin said.
Beckman also admitted forging his mother's signature on "one or two" student loan applications when he went to the University of Vermont.
"You were a very, very mediocre student," MacLaughlin said. "Graduated 801st out of 804 students."
Next, MacLaughlin asked him about a car he'd purchased in 1993 from Christian Soucy, a Canadian he had met in Vermont. "You sold the car without paying Mr. Soucy," MacLaughlin said.
Beckman said it didn't meet U.S. emissions standards. "I sold the car and we had a dispute about it," he said. "It settled."
MacLaughlin also went through Beckman's job history in an effort to show that he had hyped his experience as a longtime money manager. The government contends that Beckman didn't start managing portfolios until 2005, when he created Oxford Private Client Group. He got involved in Cook's Ponzi scheme a year later.
MacLaughlin presented an old brochure that Beckman wrote in which he claims he'd been a successful portfolio manager since 1996.
"We all make mistakes," Beckman said. "This here was done incorrectly."
Beckman also insisted he's been "running money" for clients since 2002. He disputed testimony from an H&R Block official who testified that Beckman was simply a broker and didn't have decision-making authority.
MacLaughlin asserted that Beckman's troubles consistently involved a lack of integrity.
"You don't want to go there!" Beckman said sharply.
MacLaughlin said that another firm called Computational Management Inc. cut Beckman loose for failing to disclose outside business activities.
"Nice try!" Beckman said. "Are you making that up?" He challenged MacLaughlin to produce a report saying so.
MacLaughlin moved on. He asked about Beckman's long-standing business relationship to Gene Walden, a former Star Tribune business columnist who has previously been described by the prosecution as an unindicted coconspirator.
MacLaughlin suggested that Walden testified falsely for Beckman several years ago in a child support hearing. He said Walden's testimony concealed the fact that Beckman had more than $100,000 in the bank from the sale of an annuity that he wanted to keep away from his ex-wife, Jill Kehr.
Beckman also testified falsely at that hearing, MacLaughlin said, when he claimed that his second wife, Hollie, was making "six figures." She actually made less than $40,000.
Beckman admitted to other mistakes involving the mortgaging of his late grandfather's estate and using the money to pay off personal debts. His mother sued him over it, and the matter was settled.
MacLaughlin said the money to pay that settlement came from investors in the currency program.
"We know that now because we found out it was a Ponzi scheme," Beckman said.
Beckman acknowledged submitting grossly inflated figures for his net worth to the NHL despite having suspicions about Cook and his claims about the currency program. He said they were the best numbers he could get from Cook and Pettengill.
MacLaughlin asserted that Beckman had perjured himself at a hearing in September 2009 before Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis -- who's overseeing his trial -- to get out from under an asset freeze. He said Beckman then went on a spending spree, citing an $180,000 payment for a box at Wild games and a 2010 Jaguar. Beckman admitted that he didn't make the $50,000 a month stated on the credit application, and that his wife didn't make $10,000 a month working at his firm. But when the application was filled out in October 2009, he said, "that was the agenda."
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493