Donald Anthony Young and his Kennett Square investment advisory firm Acorn Capital Management bilked investors out of $25 million in a Ponzi scheme that earned him a 17-year prison term after he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering in 2010.
It has been up to a team from the Conrad O'Brien law firm led by Louis Bechtle, former chief U.S. District Judge for Eastern Pennsylvania, to try and recoup money lost by investors.
Bechtle was appointed receiver of Young's assets and records in the civil case pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. His team, which includes fellow Conrad O'Brien partners Kevin Kent and Patricia Hamill and three associates, has recovered $30 million and distributed about $23 million to investors and other parties. That amounts to about 74 percent of the money lost. The rest that was recovered went to administrative and professional fees, such a lawyers, brokers and accountants.
The SEC froze the assets of Young and Acorn. Bechtle, 87, said his team focused on a strategy that limited filing lawsuits to keep expenses down in hopes of recouping more for investors. They were able to sell Young's three homes, two boats, several horses, jewelry and other hard assets as well as pursue some litigation against third party entities that owed Acorn.
This is music to the ears of the small pool of about 70 investors — both institutional and individual— a large chunk of whom reside in wealthy areas of Chester County.
"Most of them understood our mission," Bechtle said.
"They were very cooperative."