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Williston man faces 56 counts

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Posted: Saturday, September 29, 2012 6:13 pm

A man claiming to be from Williston has pleaded not guilty to 56 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering after allegedly defrauding investors out of $130 million in Oregon between 2006 and 2008.

Jon Michael Harder, 47, was arrested by the United States Marshall Service on Sept. 20 near Portland. He is accused of running a Ponzi scheme in which investors bought interest in individual senior assisted living properties, earning returns on the center’s individual performance.

Instead, the indictment says Harder commingled the investments and bank loans as his company, Sunwest, began to lose millions in 2006. The investor money was put toward paying for seniors’ food, staff and electricity.

To mask his losses, the indictment says he bought 100 assisted living facilities at a rate of one a week, while still collecting money from investors, flying in private jets and hiding the defaulted bank loans by Sunwest.

Harder’s attorneys claim he cooperated with the government to return up to 60 percent of investors’ money.

U.S. Magistrate John Acosta released Harder but ordered him to seek permission before traveling outside of Oregon or North Dakota, where he is reportedly attempting to do business in the oil boom.

As part of his condition of release, Harder will need approval for any financial transaction exceeding $5,000.

Once claiming to be worth $300 million, Harder asked for a public defense attorney while appearing in front of Acosta. Authorities have also claimed Harder’s 2007 Mercedes, a Land Rover, Ford F-150 and Jetta, along with diamond ring valued at $200,000.

There is currently no listed phone number for Harder in Williston or North Dakota. His claim to Williston residency was signed on his conditions of release document Sept. 21.

His trial is set to start on Nov. 30.

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