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Jason Bo-Alan Beckman

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

New charges in $194 million Ponzi scheme

  • Article by: DAN BROWNING and DAVID PHELPS
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • March 7, 2011 - 11:53 PM

Jason Bo-Alan Beckman, a brash Wayzata money manager who has claimed to be among the top financial advisers in the nation, was civilly charged Monday with participating in an elaborate $194 million investment fraud.

Beckman, 41, was an associate of Trevor Cook, an Apple Valley man who pleaded guilty last year to bilking about 1,000 investors in the $194 million Ponzi scheme. Cook, 38, was sentenced in August to 25 years in prison.

Lawyers for the Securities and Exchange Commission said Beckman raised at least $47.3 million from 143 individuals, of which only $8.2 million was returned to investors.

The government complaint says Beckman and his wife personally received $7.8 million from the illegal operation and used the funds to pay for "million dollar homes, luxury cars, foreign travel, country club expenses, a suite at professional hockey games and other trappings of a high-end lifestyle."

The lawsuit lists six counts of alleged securities and financial adviser violations against Beckman and one count against wife Hollie Beckman for receiving "ill-gotten funds."

Neither Beckman nor his attorney could be reached for comment. A hearing on the case before U.S. District Chief Judge Michael Davis is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Beckman has steadfastly denied any role in Cook's investment fraud, though he acknowledged collecting "rebates" for referring clients who invested in it.

Cook and Beckman were partners in Minneapolis-based Oxford Global Advisors, which promoted investments in foreign currencies. Cook was Oxford Global's chief investment director. Beckman said in earlier interviews that he stuck to trading equities through his own firm, the Oxford Private Client Group.

The SEC suit says that under Beckman's direction an employee for Oxford Private Client Group would send out purported account statements to investors that were "pure arithmetic" designed to represent nonexistent profits.

Prospective investors in both firms were jointly feted and solicited in periodic seminars promoted by "The Oxford Group" at the historic Van Dusen mansion in Minneapolis, where Cook and Beckman had offices for several years.

Despite the breadth of the Ponzi scheme, Cook is the only person who's been charged with a crime related to it.

Beckman, who goes by Bo, is a former Anoka High School hockey standout who went on to play for the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Vermont. He has worked in the financial services industry since 1993.

Beckman hooked up with Plymouth money manager Christopher Pettengill in 2004, when they formed CMI Capital Management. But that soon fell apart, and Pettengill joined Cook and longtime business associate Jerry Durand at Universal Brokerage Services, which pitched currency investments out of a home Cook owned in Burnsville.

Oxford Global Advisors got rolling in mid-2007, with Cook, Beckman, Pettengill and Durand as equal partners. Durand said Beckman and Cook had each worked under him at a precious metals firm in Bloomington years earlier.

Cook paid $2.6 million in cash for the Van Dusen mansion, which resembles a castle with its thick pink limestone walls. It quickly became the Oxford Group's symbol of prestige.

Beckman marketed himself as a wunderkind who could produce steady returns with low risk, and the money flowed in.

In February 2008, Beckman appeared to be at the top of his game. Having purchased a $1.6 million house in Plymouth in 2005, he and his wife added an $899,000 property in Palm City, Fla. That same month, Beckman launched a bid to buy into the Minnesota Wild.

But trouble festered at the Van Dusen. Pettengill and Durand had a falling out with Cook and left in the summer of 2008. Cook, together with Hollie Beckman, filed papers to create Oxford Global Partners -- one of a dozen Oxford entities -- to continue the currency investment program.

That fall, the Beckmans bought a million-dollar home in Mission, Texas. Since then, it has become their retreat as Cook's Ponzi scheme collapsed. Their Plymouth house is in foreclosure, and their Florida property is for sale.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493

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