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Hilo woman, 73, cuts plea deal in investment scam

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:32 a.m. HST, Jun 24, 2013

HILO » A 73-year-old Hilo woman in poor health avoided additional time behind bars by acknowledging she bilked investors out of about $500,000.

Roberta Beck "Buddy" Wong pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to wire fraud. In exchange for the plea, which court documents state was reached because of unspecified "extreme health problems," she'll be sentenced to time already served and five years' probation, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported. She must also pay about $600,000 in restitution.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 7 in federal court in Honolulu.

Wong was indicted last year on numerous charges alleging she ran a Ponzi scheme, stealing nearly $500,000 from investors over nearly a decade. Subsequent indictments alleged she continued to run the scam while awaiting trial.

Court documents said she told victims they would be investing in African oil programs and "held herself out to various prospective investors as being associated with the 'Rockefeller Foundation'" and as "a successful person with numerous ties to investment programs and prominent people in Africa." She promised a return of about eight times or more on their original investment, within three to six months after providing the money.

Wong told investors to send money directly to Africa, according to the indictment, and deposited $65,000 in bank transfers from investors' accounts into her Homestreet Bank account in Honolulu, while depositing other funds to accounts under other names in Honolulu and Ghana.

Court documents said victims were from Hawaii, California, New York and Nevada.

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