ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former Internal Revenue Service employee from the St. Louis area has been sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding clients out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme.

Federal prosecutors say 64-year-old Richard Saunders was also ordered at sentencing Thursday to pay back the victims. He must also pay back $446,000 to the IRS.

Saunders operated a scheme in which investors were promised guaranteed returns based on off-shore annuities. But authorities say he used much of the money for personal use.

Saunders left the U.S. in 2008 and moved to Thailand without paying investors. He was deported from Thailand and returned to the U.S. early last year.

Saunders was also sentenced to five years in prison, to run concurrently, for tax evasion.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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