Palmetto Bay man charged with defrauding retired teachers, police in Ponzi scheme

Retired teachers and police officers trusted Phil Williamson, of Palmetto Bay, to invest $2 million of their savings wisely .

Instead, Williamson siphoned much of their money out of the fund he purportedly set up to invest in real estate, using it to pay down his credit card bill and make payments on his BMW, according to charges filed in federal court last week by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney’s office.

Williamson promised clients that his fund, Sterling Investment, would generate annual returns between eight and 12 percent, and convinced 17 people to invest. But Williamson’s trades failed, and he paid old investors with the money of new ones, a classic Ponzi scheme.

“Investors entrusted him with their retirement savings, and he spent it as his own money,” said Eric Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami regional office, in a statement.

Williamson is cooperating with federal investigators, his attorney Jeff Weiner said in a telephone interview, and has agreed to pay back more than $748,000 that he stole from investors. He plans to plead guilty to one count of investment advisor fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, after waiving his right to prosecution by indictment. He made bail on a $100,000 personal surety bond.