Darren Berg, 'Seattle's mini Madoff,' escapes prison after bilking investors out of $100M

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The U.S. Marshals Service tightened its dragnet Friday for a con man dubbed “Seattle’s mini Madoff” after the 55-year-old escaped a federal prison where he was serving an 18-year sentence.

Darren Berg, who was convicted of swindling investors out of more than $100 million, walked away from a minimum-security work camp next to a penitentiary in Atwater, Calif. On Wednesday, The Seattle Times reported.

“Darren Berg will be captured, held to account and returned to federal custody,” said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

Berg was sentenced in 2012 to nearly two decades behind bars for bamboozling his clients – many of whom were senior citizens – out of their life savings to fund a Ponzi scheme Berg was using to support his high-flying life.

Berg, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud charges, used investment funds from his company, Meridian Group, to buy two Lear jets, several yachts and million-dollar condos and homes in Washington state and California over the course of a decade, federal prosecutors have said.

Between 2001 and 2009, Berg bilked more than 800 investors out of more than $100 million, eventually earning him the “mini Madoff” title in a nod to infamous Ponzi scheme crook Bernie Madoff.

In 2010, at the same time he said he was cooperating with bankruptcy trustees, it emerged Berg had hidden away nearly half a million dollars he used to pay leases on an apartment and a pair of Porsches, The Seattle Times reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.