Former Columbia businessmen plead guilty to investment fraud

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | 7:47 p.m. CST; updated 9:36 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 27, 2009

COLUMBIA — Two former Columbia residents each pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of investment fraud conspiracy for their role in defrauding investors of approximately $3 million, said Don Ledford, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Missouri.

William Colwell McNeely, 77, now of Millersburg, and Craig F. Swoboda, 73, of Lake Ozark, who ran United Management Group, Inc. (UMI), pleaded guilty during separate hearings in Federal Court in Jefferson City.


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McNeely and Swoboda committed wire and mail fraud while running UMI in Columbia from December 1997 through February 2006.

McNeely said he took investor money intended for the creation of vending machine technology for himself. One investor lost as much as $400,000. Ledford said he didn’t know how many investors McNeely and Swoboda had bilked out of their money.

Ledford said McNeely and Swoboda lied to potential investors saying, among other things, that UMI was worth $150 million and that the company had struck deals with several bottle distributors and were ready to sell their products.

On Nov. 17, 2007, McNeely and Swoboda were both indicted on 16 counts for various crimes related to the scheme. By pleading guilty to the one count of investment fraud conspiracy, the state would probably drop the remaining 15 counts at sentencing, Ledford said.

Under federal statutes, McNeely and Swoboda could be sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole, be fined up to $250,000 and ordered to pay restitution. 

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