A Pennsylvania attorney has been criminally and civilly charged with running a $2.7 million Ponzi scheme that, with the help of a partner in Switzerland, targeted and defrauded the lawyer's clients, authorities said.

Attorney Todd H. Lahr, 59, of Nazareth, Pa., was charged with fraud by federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court, while the SEC filed a civil lawsuit against Lahr and his partner, Thomas Megas, 77, a British national and resident of Verbier, Switzerland, in connection with the scheme, which authorities said operated from 2012 to 2019 and involved the sale of unregistered securities.

Lahr has an estate law practice in Allentown, Pa., and was an SEC-registered investment advisor from 2008 to 2010, the SEC said.

The scheme targeted the law firm's clients with bogus investments in business ventures led by Megas, including mining operations in Papua New Guinea and real estate investments in Barcelona and London, according to the SEC.

Lahr's scheme reaped $2.7 million through the sale of unregistered securities in two Sparks, Nev.-based companies: THL Holdings LLC, a company controlled by Lahr, and Ferran Global Holdings Inc., a company jointly controlled by Lahr and Megas, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

During the course of the scheme, Lahr used $400,000 of the invested money to pay prior investors, and spent another $130,000 on personal expenses, according to authorities.

Lahr spent about $25,000 in THL Holdings investor funds for his personal use, including to pay his home mortgage, his daughter’s tuition payments and his personal credit card bills, according to the SEC complaint.

The complaint also said that from 2012 to 2014, Lahr wired over $294,000 in THL Holdings investor funds to a personal bank account in Australia solely owned and controlled by Megas, adding that Megas commingled the funds with funds from other sources and used at least $24,000 to pay for ski lift tickets, car maintenance, tuition, hair salon visits and other personal expenses.

During the scheme, "Lahr discussed with Megas on several occasions the stress Lahr felt from 'borrowing' THL Holdings investor funds to 'invest' in Megas-led enterprises and having to pay the promised monthly interest on the THL Holdings promissory notes," the SEC complaint stated. "For example, on February 14, 2013, Lahr lamented to Megas by email that Lahr was having 'sleepless nights over the last year just because of all the funds I have invested here.'"