Bowman's Buswell in jail pending Oct. fraud trial

by Leslie Turk

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says the former owner of Lafayette-based Bowman Investment Group, accused of causing approximately 100 area investors to lose more than $8 million, will sit in jail while he awaits his 2012 trial for conspiracy and fraud.

Last week U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Hanna found that 43-year-old Richard J. Buswell of Lafayette, a former owner of Bowman Investment Group, has violated the conditions of his pre-trial release and ordered that Buswell be held pending trial.

Buswell's case was in front of Hanna for an evidentiary hearing following his August indictment by a federal grand jury. Unsealed Oct. 14, the 28-count indictment charges Buswell with one count of conspiracy, one count of securities fraud, one count of investment advisor fraud, eight counts of wire fraud and 15 counts of mail fraud. According to the indictment, beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2009, Buswell, along with his co-defendant, Herbert S. Fouke, earned commissions and wages by making false representations and promises to obtain investors' funds. Prosecutors say Buswell and Fouke caused more than 100 clients in Lafayette and surrounding parishes to lose more than $8 million; the government is seeking forfeiture of more than $1.7 million in commissions Buswell made from the improper trades.

Buswell was originally arraigned Oct. 14 and conditionally released pending trial under a $100,000 unsecured bond. He was ordered not to violate any federal, state or local law while on release and told to avoid contact, directly or indirectly, with any person who may be a victim or potential witness in the case.

However, following an investigation by Lafayette Metro Narcotics, Buswell was arrested Dec. 8 and charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, synthetic marijuana (aka Mr. Miyagi, Timeout, Potpourri), in violation of state law. Buswell and nine others were arrested after local law enforcement agencies raided smoking shops operating under the name Curious Goods. Officials seized nearly $1.7 million of goods containing synthetic marijuana, made illegal by recent Louisiana laws banning it and the substances used to make it. Buswell, one of the owners of the shops, located in Lafayette, Vermilion and Iberia parishes, also had $33,000 in cash seized from his home at 412 Old Settlement Road, The Advocate reported.

As a result of his arrest, U.S. Probation alleged Dec. 9 that Buswell had violated certain conditions of release. During last week's hearings, the prosecution presented evidence related to the state drug charges and also revealed evidence concerning a criminal complaint and civil suit for damages recently filed by Buswell against potential prosecution witnesses in the pending federal fraud case.

Hanna found that Buswell violated two state laws - the distribution and manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance and filing a false public record - and said there is convincing evidence he violated conditions of his prior release because the civil lawsuit contains false allegations against two victims and material witnesses for the prosecution. The court found that Buswell may pose a danger to the safety of the community and isn't likely to abide by any condition or combination of conditions of release. Buswell did not rebut that he violated the conditions of his release.

Hanna ordered that Buswell's pre-trial release be revoked and that he be detained and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal until his Oct. 22 trial.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The securities fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5,000,000 fine. The investment advisor fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of five years and a fine of $10,000. Each count of wire fraud and mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine of $250,000.

The case is being investigated by Special Agent Greg Harbourt of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly P. Uebinger.