A jailed New York hedge fund manager whose fraud was revealed in the wake of the Madoff scandal, pleaded guilty in court on Friday to charges of bilking investors of an estimated $150 million.
James Nicholson, 43, founder of Westgate Capital Management LLC, was arrested and criminally charged on February 25, when U.S. prosecutors said the scheme was partly exposed by requests for redemptions after the December 2008 disclosure of financier Bernard Madoff's multibillion dollar investment fraud.
Prosecutors are seeking at least $150 million in forfeiture from Nicholson, the amount he is said to have defrauded from investors from 2004 to early this year out of the Pearl River, New York, hedge fund he founded. Nicholson was accused of overstating asset values in his funds as being as much as $600 million to $900 million.
He pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to securities fraud, investment adviser fraud and wire fraud charges.
I stand before you as a man who is greatly ashamed for my actions, Nicholson, who admitted to defrauding 250 investors, told U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan during a plea proceeding. Words cannot explain how sorry I am.
Several of his former investors, many of whom are suburban residents in New York and New Jersey, attended the court hearing, but declined the judge's invitation to speak.
Nicholson, who is in jail because he could not meet bail, faces a possible maximum prison term of 45 years, the judge said. He scheduled a tentative sentencing date of April 30.
The case is USA v Nicholson, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 09-414.
(Reporting by Grant McCool; editing by Andre Grenon))