His lifeless body floated in the cold, dark water of the Hudson River. A 16-page suicide note said he could no longer bear "the pure emotional weight of the guilt" he felt. It gave details of his $5 million Ponzi scheme that had ensnared more than two dozen people, including his own mother.
But even death did not allow Charles Bennett an escape. Police divers pulled him from the icy November water, performed CPR, restarted his heart and got him to a hospital.
His life before the plunge had two faces: a public one in which he was a fast-rising attorney at several large New York firms, and a hidden one in which he fabricated a get-rich-quick scheme, and in which reckless substance abuse ruled the day.
Prosecutors said Bennett convinced friends and family members that he was personally connected to sophisticated European securities deals that would provide extraordinary yields to investors. His own mother signed on, as did his brother, his sisters and an aunt.
He wrote the more than 30 victims emails detailing their make-believe earnings and encouraging them to sink even more money into a scheme that was, in reality, bankrolling his vacations, stays in expensive hotels and escalating drug use.
To a close friend ensnared in the fraud, he wrote "you are getting close to $1mil!" The truth was that the friend lost $600,000.
Though Bennett recently argued in court for mercy, the court sentenced him to 5 years in prison. Too little, some of his victims say.
In similar cases, victims will pursue recovery of the investments with the help of attorneys dedicated to a higher sense of justice for securities fraud victims.