Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Jeremy Porter

Committee Members

Peter Mameli

Patrick OHara

Maria D'Agostino

Frank Anechiarico

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Ponzi, White-collar, Financial-crisis, brokerage-failure


The purpose of this study is to provide an understanding of federal level Ponzi schemes, the perpetrators of the schemes and the relationship to the financial crisis of 2007 to 2010. The Ponzi schemes have been classified into two overall types of frauds, those that are intentional frauds those that are accidental frauds. The Accidental frauds are schemes that develop when a legitimate business fails, they fall into two specific typologies: Brokerage-failure; Business-failure. The intentional schemes are a variety of typologies such as False-brokerages, intentional confidence schemes, affinity frauds and cybercurrency frauds. The data quantifies characteristics of the schemes and examines them before, during and after the time period of the financial crisis. The overall study timeframe includes cases from 1973-2016.

The primary research focus attempts to determine if there was a relationship between the financial crisis (2007-2010) and Ponzi schemes. The study seeks to determine if there was a greater amount of intentional Ponzi schemes being exposed during the financial crisis and if a greater number of Brokerage-failure schemes began during the financial crisis.

The data were collected from federal agency legal documents that designated the cases as Ponzi schemes. The schemes were coded using federal civil and criminal documents for each case. Each Ponzi scheme was coded for critical characteristics. The perpetrators of each scheme were also coded for critical characteristics.

Key findings indicate that there was not a greater quantity of Brokerage-failure schemes that formed during the financial crisis. However, many intentional schemes were exposed during the financial crisis of 2007-2010. The study also finds that there were a greater number of intentional schemes that took place during the financial crisis and that overall most schemes are intentional, not accidental frauds. Additionally, the demographics for perpetrators shows that the majority are over 50 years of age and predominantly White-males, in keeping with most studies on White-collar crime perpetrators.

In conclusion, the study provides an overall perspective on Ponzi schemes and Ponzi perpetrators never before quantified to this degree. It establishes typologies of Ponzi schemes, quantifies those schemes, and establishes data on the perpetrators of this specific type of white-collar crime.