Anchorage man accused of massive Ponzi-like scheme faces his victims in court

Garrett Elder sentencing postponed to Monday
Anchorage man accused of massive Ponzi-like scheme faces his victims in court
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 5:00 AM AKST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2023 at 4:45 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Garrett Elder, the Anchorage man accused of defrauding people out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi-like scheme, was in court Wednesday afternoon for his sentencing.

The courtroom was packed with people who said their lives were wrecked because they lost the bulk of their money to Elder and that buying a house or retiring now seemed impossible after their losses.

The testimony was so intense and long that the court proceedings couldn’t be completed by the end of the day and are now scheduled for next week.

Several people spoke for at least 30 to 40 minutes.

Matt Ellison, during his victim impact statement, told the court “Garrett Elder is that serial liar.”

Christoper Cox told the judge he wasn’t angry, but did think Elder wanted a lavish lifestyle that made him uncomfortable.

“He didn’t want a good living, he wanted a lavish living,” Cox said during his victim impact statement.

Authorities with the United States Department of Justice and the Alaska Division of Banking and Securities both said that Elder cheated well over 100 investors out of millions of dollars between 2016 and 2022.

Elder ran two businesses from a location on Old Seward Highway called Tycoon Trading, LLC and Daily Bread Fund, LLC.

Through his companies, authorities say Elder took $30 to $34 million from approximately 140 investors — mostly from Alaska — and he allegedly lost about $25 million of that money.

At times several people could be seen crying as the victims addressed the court.

Passions boiled over to anger and accusations against the prosecutor and the defense attorney prompted a scolding from the judge who attempted to curb rhetoric.

The court filing shows that Elder used some of the proceeds to purchase real estate, a boat, vehicles, bicycles, a camper, tools, and jewelry.

Elder changed his plea in May from not guilty to guilty.

This week, letters on Elder’s behalf — from both family and friends — pleaded for Judge Joshua Kindred to impose the lightest sentence possible.

Garrett’s older sister wrote that she, her husband, and five of their six children, also lost money because of Elder.

Still, in her writings to the judge, she painted a picture of a Christian family man who has asked for forgiveness.

“I truly believe that Garrett did not mean ill-will, but made a bad trade and then thought he could trade his way out of the deficit. Oddly enough, his desire to do good and help fix the problem only exacerbated it,” Courtney Bruzas wrote.

In her letter to the judge, Bruzas also wrote: “Garrett is remorseful and sorry. So very sorry. I can’t apologize for him, but I have been witness to his heartache over his actions. Garrett has lost the trust of his closest family and friends. Several people have removed themselves from his life completely. This heartache and pain, that he inflicted upon himself, is one of the biggest consequences of his actions.”

Elder’s mother, Amy Elder, also asked the judge for leniency.

“I was personally and financially impacted by his actions, as I had invested with him. Financially I lost funds which will take time to recoup. As an investor, I am very aware money can be made or lost. I try to make sure I can afford the loss of what is invested, always hoping for gains,” Amy Elder wrote. “Personally, a lifetime of trust was deeply broken by his actions. Broken. But not irreparable, if one chooses. I choose repair. I choose healing. I am a parent, a mother. I choose to support him through accountability as he works to pay back his debt.”

The Justice Department says it will recommend a prison sentence of seven years and three months. Elder’s court-appointed defense attorney is asking for a five-year sentence. The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years in prison.

Several of Elder’s victims said following Elder’s last court appearance earlier this year that the proposed sentence was too lenient.

Those same feelings were repeated on Wednesday.

John Ellison’s victim impact statement, which was filed with fire and brimstone toward Elder, was longer than 30 minutes. He said he lost almost $1.4 million because of Elder and retiring this December was now impossible.

“This was deceit, manipulation and theft,” Ellison said.

Most of the victims testified that they knew Elder from church and some had recommended his financial services to other family members and friends causing whole families to lose generational wealth and security.

One person said Elder used the “religion card” to make people comfortable and more willing to invest their money with him.

Another victim looked at Elder and asked, “How did we give you all the power to destroy us?”

And one victim said her family’s friendship with Elder was so deep, that not only did they trust him with their savings, but also their newborn. “You were the first person we trusted to babysit our child,” the woman said.

As part of the plea deal Elder signed, he agreed to forfeit 37 acres of land, a Ford F-350 pickup truck, a camping trailer, a boat, interest in multiple LLCs, and money in nine bank and brokerage accounts.

Elder’s sentencing will continue Monday. Judge Joshua Kindred indicated at the end of Wednesday’s proceedings that because of the emotional and detailed victim impact statements, he will consider sentencing Elder to more than the prosecution recommendation of 87 months.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates