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You may have lost money in your investment portfolio,
due to mismanagement and not even know it.

Ponzi schemes: collapsing under their own weight

Ex-NFL star Will Allen had a long and storied career playing professional football at the highest level. Allen was a sterling performer for several teams for more than a decade, including the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Unfortunately for Allen, the career success he sustained on the football field did not translate to business endeavors. In fact, the high-profile spotlight put upon the former athlete recently emanated from a federal court, not the gridiron.

And the subject matter focused centrally on mass fraud committed in a Ponzi scheme reportedly engineered by Allen and an associate.

Charges against Allen's co-defendant are still pending. As for Allen, who was facing 23 criminal counts, the fraud case against him ended last month pursuant to his guilty plea on four of those counts, including two counts of wire fraud.

Ponzi schemes can be notably complex (think the notorious Madoff scheme).

That was certainly not the case with the fraud engineered by Allen and his partner, though. Their ruse was essentially this: Solicit money from investors by telling them that they would recoup investments with attractive interest attached from loans made to professional athletes at high rates.

The bottom line with the loans was that many of them were fictitious, with others being overstated. Allen and his co-conspirator paid back a few investors -- some of whom were professional athletes themselves -- and simply pocketed the money in many other cases.

Ultimately, the Ponzi scheme could not be sustained, collapsing from an absence of funds.

The scam reportedly fleeced investors of about $37 million. Allen will be sentenced early next year.

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