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, When Greed and Giving Collide. 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 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 articles and features about the investigation of John Bennett and the Foundation of New Era Philanthropy:

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 GreedConfessions of a Con Man

To learn more about her FBI career and listen to more episodes featuring her cases, visit Jerri’s About Me page.

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, a crime novel inspired by the case, to help me resolve unanswered questions about why John Bennett committed this Ponzi scheme.

Greedy Givers can be purchased wherever books are sold.


Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.


  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.


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