In re Raejean S. Bonham dba World Plus
Bankruptcy No. F95-00897
Unofficial Web Site
From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, April 18, 2002, Section B, page 1
World Plus' Bonham OKs Plea Deal
[Staff and Wire Reports]
The former head of the World Plus airline-ticket Ponzi scheme, who is already serving a five-year federal prison sentence after being convicted of bilking investors out of millions of dollars, faces up to five more years in prison after reaching a plea agreement on state criminal charges.
On Tuesday [April 16] in Anchorage Superior Court, Fairbanksan RaeJean Bonham, 52, agreed to plead no contest to a consolidated state count of filing misleading securities statements. The count is a felony that carries a mandatory minimum of one year in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Bonham could receive up to five more years behind bars at her July 31 sentencing, though Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton could elect to have Bonham serve the time concurrent to her federal sentence.
In exchange for her plea, the state dropped a perjury count that carried a maxium sentence of 10 years in prison, said Brian Clark, assistant attorney general for special prosecutions.
Bonham was the head of World Plus, which she ran in Fairbanks and which promised backers a return on their investment through the bulk purchase of frequent-flier miles. Those miles, she claimed, could be converted into discount airline tickets and sold at a great profit.
In reality, World Plus was a pyramid scheme in which early investors were paid off with money from later ones. The 1995 collapse of World Plus prompted a tide of investor claims, a state investigation, and civil and criminal lawsuits. Several prominent Alaskans lost large sums in the scam, including a federal prosecutor who specialized in white collar crime, several state prosecutors, a state judge, a former Fairbanks police chief, a University of Alaska professor, attorneys and stockbrokers. More than $60 million in claims have been filed against the now-defunct company by more than 1,200 investors.
In October 1997, a federal grand jury returned a 79-count indictment against Bonham, including numerous counts of mail fraud, money laundering, and engaging in prohibited monetary transactions. She agreed to plead guilt to one count each of mail fraud and money laundering and in January 1999 was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $5.7 million.
A month after her federal sentencing, Bonham was indicted by a Alaska state grand jury on one count of perjury and six counts of submitting misleading securities filings. The state charges against Bonham were actually dropped when Wolverton ruled that they were substantially connected with the federal charges. In a June ruling, the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned his decision, concluding that the state and federal counts differed enough to merit separate prosecutions.
Bonham pleaded innocent to all the charges before changing her plea on Tuesday. She spoke at the hearing by telephone from the Geiger Corrections Center in Spokane, Washington where she is serving her federal sentence.
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