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Man charged in Ponzi scheme commits suicide

ROCHESTER — Authorities say an upstate New York businessman charged with bilking oil and natural gas investors in a Ponzi scheme that took in an estimated $35 million has committed suicide.

The Monroe County sheriff’s department says 71-year-old Ashvin Zaveri fatally shot himself Friday evening on a park bench in the Rochester suburb of Mendon.

Prosecutors say Zaveri is believed to have returned $30 million to $31 million to keep the scheme going from April 2003 to March 2009 and pocketed the remainder. They say many of the 320-plus investors lived in western New York.

Zaveri had been expected to plead guilty in federal court next month to tax and fraud charges that carried a likely sentence of six-to-eight years in prison.