gavel.jpgA 31-year-old man was charged in federal court Friday for allegedly taking in more than $25 million while running a Ponzi scheme for nearly three years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Maher Talal Muhawieh made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Friday morning to face 12 counts of wire fraud, according to the department.

Muhawieh, a San Francisco resident, allegedly told victims various lies to get them to lend him money, such as that their money would be used to purchase and renovate residential properties in San Francisco that would later be sold at a profit.

Instead, he was operating a Ponzi scheme in which he used the lenders’ money to reimburse earlier lenders.

The prosecution is the result of a 15-month investigation by the FBI, according to the Department of Justice.

The maximum sentence for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, supervised release for three years, and restitution to victims of the scheme.

Muhawieh was released to a halfway house on a $375,000 secured bond. He is scheduled to next return to court Tuesday for a bail hearing before Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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