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Guilty plea expected in Ponzi case

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A man who has admitted to running a $20 million Ponzi scheme out of a bookkeeping office in San Francisco’s Sunset district will plead guilty in federal court later this month, his attorney James Reilly said.

San Mateo resident Roberto Heckscher, who operated Irving Bookkeeper and Taxes on Irving Street, was indicted Thursday on charges related to the fraud. He allegedly ran a scheme in which he promised to invest clients’ money but instead used the funds to meet other investors’ interest payments.

Heckscher duped as many as 300 investors, Reilly said.

The scheme dates to 1979, according to the indictment.

Heckscher initially invested the money as promised but ran into problems in the early 1980s when he himself was duped into a silver investment scheme. Rather than come clean about the losses, he borrowed money to pay back his investors, Reilly said.

The problem escalated in the late 1990s, Reilly said, when Heckscher entered a blackjack tournament. After winning a $1 million pot, Heckscher imagined gambling as a way to “wipe the slate clean,” his attorney said.

The scheme collapsed earlier this year. Investors began asking for their money back because of the economic downturn but Heckscher could not return the investments.

Checks began to bounce in June, at which point Heckscher attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, Reilly said.
Heckscher, who is not in custody, will appear in court Oct. 30.

kworth@sfexaminer.com