A Harvard-educated financier promised she was providing returns of almost 50 percent, but in reality, she was flunking out and resorting to fraud to cover her losses.
Haena Park, 41, a financier whose friends and family invested millions of dollars with her investment firms, was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison after squandering more than $23 million, mostly through bad investments.
Park was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Ronnie Abrams, who said she had about as privileged a background as anyone she had ever sentenced.
"You squandered it all," the judge said of Park, whom the government described as having dangled her Wall Street success and Harvard degree to win the trust of relatives, close friends and former classmates.
The judge said she still didn't understand how Park "could lie and steal from those you loved" by soliciting investments beginning in September 2009 in companies that prosecutors said in court papers had "impressive-sounding names like Argenta Capital GP LLC and Phaetra Capital Management LP."
The judge called the money Park lost over a six-year period for more than 40 investors "staggering" after prosecutors said Park continued to solicit new investors with claims of annual returns up to nearly 50 percent and by churning out fictitious monthly statements that hid massive losses resulting from risky investments.
"It was selfish. It was arrogant. It was careless, and it was callous," the judge said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Magdo said Park's victims included elderly people who lost their life savings, immigrants who worked multiple jobs for decades and a paraplegic who lost $4 million after telling Park he would soon retire because his health was deteriorating.
"She took away their American dream," Magdo said of immigrants who lost everything.
After two victims asked the judge to show Park mercy, Magdo said scores of other victims were "too devastated, too humiliated and too distraught" to speak publicly.
Tearfully, Park apologized, saying she had deluded herself into believing she could win back the money she lost on bad investments.
"I was lying to myself," she said. "I should have reached out for help."
Prosecutors had asked that Park serve at least nine years in prison.
Assistant public defender Julia Gatto had requested Park serve no prison time, citing her ongoing pregnancy, health issues, remorse and efforts to make amends.