Music producer who once worked with big names is convicted in NY of defrauding investors

Industrials Associated Press

A music producer who once worked with stars including Kenny G and Whitney Houston was convicted Friday of ripping off investors in gold and diamonds with a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

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Charles Huggins, 68, of Edgewater, New Jersey, was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by a jury that deliberated less than a day.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein ordered Huggins held at least until his sentencing, saying his risk to flee is higher because he has foreign bank accounts and knows high-level government officials in Africa. Sentencing was set for January.

Huggins, who once was married to soul singer Melba Moore, could face up to 40 years in prison for his conviction after a two-week trial.

Huggins was accused of cheating dozens of investors out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme. Ex-NFL player Ken Hamlin testified that he was among the victims.

Prosecutors say the scam began as early as 2005 and lasted until 2011.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Surratt told jurors in closing arguments that about 30 investors gave Huggins about $4 million as he guaranteed a successful investment in mining diamonds and gold in Africa.

She said he lived in a $7,200-a-month Manhattan apartment, drove a Mercedes and spent money on family and friends, including an aspiring young actress who called him dad.

"Do you think Ken Hamlin would have invested if he knew his money was going straight to an aspiring pretty young actress who called Charles Huggins her dad?" the prosecutor asked jurors. She said Huggins paid for her Manhattan apartment.

She said Huggins showed prospective investors, including Hamlin, diamonds to impress them and make his investment claims seem legitimate.

The prosecutors said FBI agents found $35,000 in cash stuffed in envelopes, along with about 1,000 smaller diamonds, in safe deposit boxes.

Defense attorney Bryan Blaney told jurors that Huggins had a fourth-grade education and had done work for Houston when she was recording her first album.

"Bad bookkeeping, yes. Bad bank record keeping, yes. No fraud. No fraud," Blaney said. "Sometimes, business deals don't work out. That is not fraud."

Huggins' longtime secretary, Anne Thomas, testified at trial that actor Tom Cruise had come by the office once or twice when he was being managed by one of Huggins' associates. She said Huggins' music business, Orpheus, had done work for Kenny G in the 1970s.

She said Huggins was living large by the early 1990s, when he owned a $3.2 million Wall, New Jersey, property that had a horse stable, cabana, outdoor swimming pool and an indoor swimming pool. She said he also at that time had a property in South Carolina, a three-story building in midtown Manhattan that he bought in 1977, and two condominiums in the Poconos.