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Former banker gets six-years for $5 million Ponzi scheme

More than five years have passed since a jury found Ian C. Gent guilty of operating a Ponzi scheme that cheated dozens of victims out of $5 million.

Gent, 73, who had won an appeal of his initial eight-year prison sentence, was back in court Wednesday and this time received six years in prison.

A former banker and securities expert, Gent will face deportation back to Canada when he is released.

“I have always felt horrible about the losses and how they occurred,” he told Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

After a two-week trial in 2011, a federal court jury found Gent guilty of conspiracy and mail fraud for helping Guy W. Gane and Watermark Financial Services, of Amherst, operate an investment scheme.

The scheme, according to prosecutors, promised 10 percent annual returns on real estate investments in Maine, but Watermark never actually bought the property. The company closed in 2008, and Gane eventually took a plea deal that sent him to prison for 13 years.

Gent, meanwhile, maintained his innocence and, from Day One, argued that he stayed with Gane and Watermark in an attempt to save it from financial ruin and to recover money for investors, a claim challenged by prosecutors.

“He could have put a stop to this,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gretchen L. Wylegala. “Instead, he decided to help it move forward.”

Wylegala asked Skretny to remember the victims in the case, many of whom lost retirement savings, and the fact that they will likely never get their money back.

Joseph F. Lagona also was convicted in connection with the scheme, and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Lagona also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of obstruction of justice after he admitted approaching a campaign aide for then-Rep. Kathy Hochul, now the lieutenant governor, and offering to help Hochul’s congressional campaign if her husband, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., dropped the fraud case.

Gent’s sentence Wednesday was the result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Criminal Division of the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission.