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Published on May 19, 2024
Miami Man Sentenced to Over 14 Years for $11 Million Ponzi Scheme After Dramatic ArrestSource: Unsplash/ Wesley Tingey

Volodimyr Pigida, the Miami man who engineered an $11 million Ponzi scheme, has been sentenced to spend more than 14 years behind bars, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced. The 49-year-old fraudster, originally from Bellevue, Washington, was sentenced today after a dynamic standoff with law enforcement led to his capture last fall. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Pigida will serve a total of 172 months — 156 for the scheme and an additional 16 for failing to show up to his original sentencing hearing.

During the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez expressed his distaste for Pigida's behavior, stating he "abused the court’s 'trust'" by running away from justice. The judge condemned the scheme as "extensive, elaborate, complex," one that caused "immense harm" to victims. U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman echoed these sentiments, accusing Pigida of consistently refusing to accept responsibility for his actions. "Accountability has been a long-time coming for Mr. Pigida," she said, indicating the harsh sentence reflected his continued denial of guilt. Moreover, Gorman emphasized how Pigida's actions leading up to his conviction to only add to the severity of his sentence.

Pigida, along with his wife, Marina Bondarenko, ran a 'work-at-home' email scam under the business name Trend Sound Promoter, duping thousands. They sold bogus ad-promoting packages claiming recipients could earn significant money through email marketing. In reality, funds from new buyers were used to pay previous ones, the hallmark of a Ponzi scheme. The fraudulent house of cards tumbled eventually, but not before the couple siphoned funds for lavish amenities, including homes, cars, and a yacht.

After failing to appear for his sentencing on August 4, 2023, a nationwide manhunt was launched. Initially feared to have possibly fled to Ukraine, his birthplace, Pigida was found hiding in a secret room in a relative's Florida home following a tense three-hour standoff with police on October 24, 2023. As relayed by Assistant United States Attorney Philip Kopczynski, federal agents had to "literally drag him out." In a statement, Kopczynski condemned Pigida's defiance and disrespect towards the legal system, highlighting the gravity of his crime, as per the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Bondarenko pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud in September 2019 and was already handed a 38-month prison sentence. The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are credited with the investigation leading to the couple's indictment for conspiracy and multiple fraud charges in November 2018. As the case unfolds, Assistant United States Attorney Philip Kopczynski spearheads the prosecution, which continues to reveal the extensive web of deceit previously woven by Pigida and his accomplice.