Emmett man at center of $45 million Ponzi scheme to be released Monday

The ex-Gem prosecutor and Payette magistrate was convicted in a $45 million Ponzi scheme.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMarch 28, 2014 

Bryant E. "Bry" Behrmann, 67, is scheduled to be released Monday after serving more than four years for money laundering.

Behrman and his business partner, Larry "Buck" Hunter, of La Grande, Ore., defrauded 9,400 people from across the country who invested $45.7 million in a get-rich-quick scheme selling inventory overstock. Less than $2 million was ever used to buy inventory.

Their company, Global Online Direct, claimed it bought distressed merchandise and resold it through online auctions, retail stores, flea markets and street sales. It operated from 2005 to 2007.

The two men promised returns of 65 percent to more than 1,800 percent annually, according to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. They also offered bonuses of up to 35 percent to new investors.

Some early investors were paid with money provided by later investors. Others received nothing. By early 2007, the company owed investors $265 million, $250 million more than the company had in assets.

Behrmann and Hunter had aroused the attention of state regulators in earlier ventures. Oregon ordered Hunter to stop selling securities in 1996. Between 2002 and 2006, Behrmann and Hunter were issued similar orders from securities regulators in North Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania and British Columbia.

Behrmann, who was prosecuting attorney in Gem County in the early 1980s and later was a part-time magistrate in Payette County, mentioned his background to potential investors. Prosecutors said he encouraged people to call him "judge."

He didn't tell investors that the Idaho Supreme Court suspended his license in 1999 after finding that he had engaged in "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." He was accused of defrauding a client.

Federal prosecutors agreed not to charge Gabrielle Behrmann, Behrmann's daughter. She was accused of improperly receiving $393,000 from Global Direct in May 2006. The money was used to buy a home in Henderson, Nev. In exchange, she agreed to turn over ownership of the home.

Bryant Behrmann will be released Monday from a halfway house in Phoenix.

Hunter is scheduled to be released June 7 from a halfway house in Seattle.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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