An upstate New York man accused of bilking investors out of $35 million in a Ponzi scheme involving oil and natural gas exploration in Kentucky and Tennessee is dead from an apparent suicide.

Asvin Zaveri, 71, late last year was charged with 16 counts of money laundering and mail and wire fraud dating back to 2003. According to the indictment, Zaveri solicited investors to invest in about 24 partnerships for oil/natural gas exploration and received about $35 million by mail and wire transfers (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2009).

The Monroe County, NY, sheriff’s department said Zaveri shot himself last Friday evening on a park bench in the Rochester, NY, suburb of Mendon, the Associated Press reported. Zaveri had been expected to plead guilty to tax and fraud charges in September. He faced six to eight years in prison.

Zaveri was the managing partner of Tennessee Oil & Gas Development Partnership and Wright-Overton Drilling Project 2006 Partnership. For these he received investments of more than $1 million and paid original investors with money from those who came afterward, the indictment alleged. Many of the investors lived in western New York state.

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