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Last published at August 8, 2009 at 2:30 PM

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Bellevue stock swindler gets 7½ years

A federal judge Friday sentenced a Bellevue woman to 7½ years in prison for helping to orchestrate a massive stock-fraud scheme that bilked more than 3,000 investors in all 50 states out of nearly $2.5 million. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones told 65-year-old Beverlee Kamerling that she had failed to show a "shred of acceptance of responsibility" for the huge swindle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A federal judge Friday sentenced a Bellevue woman to 7-½ years in prison for helping to orchestrate a massive stock-fraud scheme that bilked more than 3,000 investors in all 50 states out of nearly $2.5 million.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones told 65-year-old Beverlee Kamerling that she had failed to show a "shred of acceptance of responsibility" for the huge swindle. He ordered her to repay the money and undergo mental-health treatment.

"If you were in the business of magic, perhaps your skills of deception would be an asset," Jones said. "But you don't get it. You exhibit total contempt for our system of laws and ethics."

Kamerling was indicted by a grand jury in late 2007 along with about eight others, including her son. Federal investigators at the time alleged that Kamerling was the leader behind the "pump-and-dump" scheme to buy up worthless companies, artificially inflate their stock values through false advertising and promotion, then dump shares using offshore brokerages.

Kamerling had a long history of securities violations both in the U.S. and in Canada, where she was banned from the markets in 1989. In 1999, a federal judge barred Kamerling from U.S. markets as well.

Prosecutors sought a 10-year sentence for Kamerling, the maximum under the law. Though they have since backed off contentions that she was the sole mastermind of the operation, they maintained Friday that she had a hand in virtually every aspect of the scheme. And they pointed to her history of stock-market trouble and unwillingness to accept fault.

While she pleaded guilty to securities fraud and obstruction of justice, Kamerling later sent the judge packets of letters totaling at least 100 pages in which she denied wrongdoing and contended no one was hurt because of her. She accused the government of a decades-long campaign to harass her.

"Ms. Kamerling clearly feels she's above the law," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Lord said. "She knows no boundaries."

But Kamerling's lawyer, Peter Avenia, argued that Kamerling was "demonized" as the boss but was actually only the "hired help" for the real kingpins, Florida men Avenia called "the big three" — John Johansen and brothers Joel and Frazier Ramsden.

Frazier Ramsden is serving a 41-month sentence, and his brother got a six-year sentence last month. Johansen is still awaiting sentencing.

Another co-conspirator, former Bellevue securities attorney Tolan Furusho, was sentenced to 13 months in prison last month and has been disbarred. Kamerling's son, Nicholas Alexander, was sentenced to 41 months.

Kamerling read from a prepared statement that also deflected all blame.

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She likened her involvement to merely selling a car that later crashes and hurts someone. And she suggested that someone should make a Web site that lists warning signs of fraudulent stock deals.

Jones replied that if there were such a list, Kamerling's behavior would meet every criteria. "While I don't believe you were the kingpin," Jones said, "you served as the adhesive for a house built on ill-gotten gains."

Ian Ith: 206-464-2109 or iith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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