Victims of ‘3 Hebrew Boys’ Ponzi scheme get back nearly half their money

The 3 Hebrew Boys in court in July 2007: Joseph Brunson, left, Tony Pough and Timothy McQueen, right. (AP Photo/The State/File)

Victims of an infamous South Carolina-based Ponzi scheme are getting back about 46 cents on every dollar they sent to a group called the “3 Hebrew Boys.”

It’s an usually large recovery. Typically, most of the money tied up in such financial swindles is lost.

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said today a court-appointed receiver has issued 3,800 checks totaling $19 million to people with legitmate claims.

“The receiver has worked aggressively to ensure that the victims ... received their fair share of what was recovered,” Nettles said in statement.

The 3 Hebrew Boys were Tony Pough, 48, Joseph Brunson, 48, and Timothy McQueen, 53, all formerly of Columbia.

They all received harsh punishments in December 2010 for their roles in the fraud. Brunson and McQueen are serving 27-year prison terms. Pough is serving 30 years.

They three men were convicted in November 2009 for masterminding a foreign-exchange investment program that turned out to be an elaborate Ponzi scheme, in which money from newcomers was used to pay off previous investors.

The name of the group came from the biblical story of three men who were thrown into an inferno after refusing to bow to a statue, but then emerged unscathed because of their faith. Prosecutors said they preyed on debt-plagued investors to ensnare them in a Ponzi scheme.

The men said they were part of a ministry, telling people their mailed-in investments would earn fantastic rewards that would pay off their debts. At least 7,000 people from dozens of states bought into the ruse and sent in about $80 million.

The men paid themselves salaries of about $1 million and spent more than $25 million, including three Atlanta-area condominiums, luxury suites at football stadiums, a Gulfstream jet, limousines, a motorcoach and 20 acres in Orangeburg, prosecutors said at the trial. Defense attorneys claimed those were investments that would make money for clients.

Some investors got their money back before the scheme collapsed.

“We are satisfied that the process worked and that checks are going out,” said receiver Beattie Ashmore. “Our goal has been to maximize the reimbursement to the victims who filed claims with us, while insuring fairness and equitability. We are pleased to be paying out 46 cents for every dollar invested — an extraordinary recovery in the context of these types of schemes.”

Go to for more information about the payments to victims and the status of the restitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.