M. Derrick Peninger, the former commodities trader and convicted Ponzi scheme operator, asked the public to pay for his latest legal defense Wednesday.
Peninger, 50, pleaded not guilty to a new charge of failing to appear for his sentencing at an arraignment hearing in federal court. Shackled in a faded Charleston County Detention Center striped jumpsuit, he also filed a request for a court-appointed attorney.
Authorities estimate that Peninger's fraud consumed $7 million in investors' money.
He did not show up to sentencing April 12 and eluded authorities for 10 days before police dogs tracked him down to a Daniel Island business park. Because of a conflict with the Federal Public Defender's Office, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant appointed Peninger's defense attorney in the previous case, Kerry Koon, to represent Peninger in the more recent matter, as well.
Koon said after court that Peninger's not-guilty plea is routine under the circumstances. The charge of failing to appear carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart asked that Peninger remain in custody until his sentencing on the original case.
"It seems like a moot point," DeHart said.
DeHart has said he plans to ask for the statutory maximum penalty of 20 years on the original charges.
Authorities estimate that as many as 35 people, mostly older and middle class, fell victim to Peninger's scheme.