Man gets 27 months for Durango Ponzi scheme

1 of Mark Akins’ victims calls him ‘a despicable predator’

DENVER – The salesman for a Durango-based Ponzi scheme received a 27-month prison sentence Friday afternoon.

Mark W. Akins of Durango pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud for his involvement in rounding up investors in 2006 and 2007 for a Ponzi scheme set up by Frederick H.K. Baker of Utah. Baker claimed he was making money trading in world currency markets, but he actually was investing his victims’ money in other Ponzi schemes, in what his lawyer called a failed attempt to “scam the scammers.”

Baker pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

Akins did not realize he was shilling for a fraudulent scheme until March 2007, several months into his involvement with Baker. But when he realized he had been fronting for a scam, he did not go to the police and even continued rounding up investors.

Akins’ victims and family painted two very different pictures of the man in court Friday.

“Mark Akins is a despicable predator. He stalks any and all individuals without remorse,” said David Shockley, who testified by telephone from Washington state.

Shockley said his investment losses nearly ruined his marriage, forced a short sale on his home and led to his car being repossessed.

“We will never recover what we lost, and our lives have been forever altered by this loathsome criminal,” Shockley said.

On the other hand, Akins’ sister, nephew and fiancée all testified to his character.

While in prison, Akins’ health has declined, and he was on “death’s doorstep,” said his sister, Connie Akins.

“I saw him lose everything in prison. He lost his reputation, he lost his money, he lost many relationships,” Connie Akins said.

But he has earned a reputation among guards and fellow inmates for helping other people, she said.

Akins said he started reading the Bible while in prison and has started a support group for other inmates.

He apologized to his victims Friday.

“It breaks my heart to know that I embarrassed my family and I hurt these people,” Akins said.

Akins’ prison sentence nearly brings to a close a case that has taken five years to investigate and prosecute.

However, even as the case was winding down Friday, there were hints by victims that much remains to be learned about the scam. They talked of an “unindicted co-conspirator” who helped Baker manage the money of Durango victims, as well as a second, larger fraud called Methwold that Baker was running alongside the original scheme.

A restitution hearing for Akins is scheduled for Oct. 18.