New York firm founder pleads guilty to $23 million fraud

New York firm founder pleads guilty to $23 million fraud


NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York woman who founded two firms pleaded guilty on Friday to defrauding investors, including friends and family members, out of more than $23 million by lying about her rates of return in order to cover up her growing trading losses.

Haena Park, who established Phaetra Capital Management LP and Argenta Group LLC, entered her plea in Manhattan federal court to one count of commodities fraud, admitting that she lied to her more than 40 investors.

"I am deeply ashamed and remorseful," she said in court.

The 41-year-old Manhattan resident faces up to 10 years in prison when she is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams on April 28. As part of a plea deal, she agreed to forfeit nearly $23.2 million.

According to court papers, Park solicited investments from friends, family and former Harvard University classmates by touting herself as an accomplished foreign-exchange currency trader who had generated annual returns of as high as 48.9 percent.

In fact, Park's trading was consistently unsuccessful, and she lost $19.5 million of the $20 million she traded, mostly in highly leveraged futures and foreign exchange transactions, prosecutors said.

Park generated fictitious account statements that showed investors were making money almost every month, prosecutors said. They said she hid her trading losses by returning $3 million to earlier investors from funds deposited by new investors.

Park, who according to school records graduated from Harvard in 1998 with a psychology degree, was arrested in June. She also faces lawsuits by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The case is U.S. v. Park, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00473.