Episode 122: Jerri Williams – New Era Ponzi Scheme, Greedy Givers

Retired agent Jerri Williams served in the FBI for 26 years. During most of her Bureau career, she worked major economic fraud investigations targeting financial crimes and corruption. In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, she reviews the Foundation of New Era Philanthropy investigation, a $350 million charity Ponzi scheme perpetrated against unsuspecting nonprofit organizations, high profiled philanthropists, and beneficiary donors, which resulted in a 12-year prison sentence and multiple forfeitures. The case and Jerri Williams were featured on the CNBC show, American Greed, Confessions of a Con Man. She received a United States Attorney Award for Distinguished Service for her work on the New Era Philanthropy case, as well as two additional U.S. Attorney Awards for her work on an international advance fee scam, and a business to business telemarketing fraud. Toward the end of her FBI career, Jerri Williams was appointed as the spokesperson for the Philadelphia Division of the FBI, taking on the responsibility of educating and informing the media and public about the Bureau. Post-FBI retirement, Jerri served as the spokesperson and Director of Media Relations for SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation provider. Both positions often placed her in the spotlight in front of local and national news media. Jerri Williams is the author of two crime novels. Her recently published novel, Greedy Givers, was inspired by the Foundation of New Era Philanthropy investigation discussed in this episode.

(I’m interviewed by Deana Marie, host of Twisted Philly Podcast. Thanks, Deana!)

Special Agent (Retired)

Jerri Williams

9/13/1982 – 11/7/2008

The following are links to newspaper articles and TV show about the Foundation of New Era Philanthropy investigation:

Philadelphia Articles: John Bennett – New Era Press Release and Philly Articles


Wall Street Journal – 8/30/1996:  New Era Founder Is Charged In $135 Million Fraud Case

New York Times – 3/27/1997:  Head of Bankrupt Charity Fund Pleads No Contest in Fraud Case

SunSentinal – 6/27/1997:  Prudential Securities Sued By Trustee – Suit Alleges Firm’s Ties To New Era Enabled Charities Fraud

CNBC’s American Greed (VIDEO)Confessions of a Con Man

The criminal investigation of the Foundation of New Era Philanthropy was initiated after a front page Philadelphia Inquirer article signaled that a bankruptcy was actually the inevitable collapse of a Ponzi scheme.
Victims of the charity Ponzi scheme thought they were providing funds to be used to support needy non-profits.
The founder of the New Era of Philanthropy John Bennett’s mugshot.
I wrote Greedy Givers to help me resolve unanswered questions I had about why John Bennett committed this Ponzi scheme. Greedy Givers can be purchased here.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by writing crime fiction and hosting FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast available for free subscription on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and other popular podcast apps. Her nonfiction book FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives and her FBI corruption squad police procedurals featuring Special Agent Kari Wheeler are available wherever books are sold.


  1. Cary L. Thornton, Jr.December 5, 2018

    This was a fascinating documentary that details how some mask philanthropy with greed. I’m not surprised this story was picked up by American Greed. Greedy Givers is a winner!

    1. Jerri WilliamsDecember 20, 2018

      Thank you! I was a fascinating case.

  2. JeanJuly 1, 2018

    This case was fascinating. I so enjoyed this case. I still wish you did a case a day, but do understand that’s not so easy, lol. Thank you for sharing how you became confident and sure of yourself in working cases. Sometimes, we, as women, take a bit of time to get our bearings but when we do, we prove to ourselves and others we can do anything. Lol I’m ordering your newest book and can’t wait to read it. Immensely enjoy your podcast.

    1. Jerri WilliamsJuly 1, 2018

      Thanks Jean! It was fun being on the other side of the interview table. I’m so glad you enjoy the podcast. I think you’ll enjoy Greedy Givers too.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top