The principal of a hedge fund based in Salt Lake City has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud more than $30 million from more than 200 victims, most of them seniors, retirees and others looking for safe investment returns, says the U.S. Attorney for Atlanta, Ga., Sally Quillian Yates.

Thomas Repke, 58, of Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit fraud in federal district court. His former business partner James Jeffery, 59, of Belleville, Ontario, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud last spring.

They were principals in the Utah-based Coadum Advisors and operated the hedge fund Coadum Capital, which drew hundreds of investors nationwide into a series of investment funds between 2005 and 2008, the U.S. attorney says. They pleaded guilty to lying to the victims about how their money was invested, what returns they would earn and what balances they held.

Repke's trial was scheduled to start in two weeks.

The two described the investments in monthly account statements sent to investors saying they had earned between 3% and 7% each month.

Although investors were instructed to transit funds to escrow accounts, including one in Atlanta, the money did not stay in any such account, Yates says. Instead, the two transferred more than $20 million of the money to a series of hedge funds that lost money.

They used $10 million of the money to operate the business, pay early investors and pay themselves $500,000 in cash. They ignored most investors' requests for distributions of earnings. The two were indicted in 2010 on 22 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

The "plea is another step toward bringing justice for the many investors who lost so much," says Brian D. Lamkin, special agent in charge of the FBI Atlanta field office. "The financial damage to the victims in this international, multi-million dollar investment fraud scheme, cannot, however, be undone."

-Karen DeMasters