NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you are going to rip someone off, go big or go home. That might be the motto of three California con artists that attempted to pull off a super-sized scam, separating wealthy investors from $1 billion of their money.

Three former investment advisers are prison-bound for concocting an elaborate high-yield investment fraud scheme that included a bogus Federal Reserve Bank twist.

William J. Ferry, a former stock broker and investment advisor; Dennis J. Clinton, a former real estate investment manager; and Paul R. Martin, a former senior vice president and managing director of Bankers Trust, promoted a "Fed Trade Program," purportedly "regulated" by the Federal Reserve Bank, following "strict Fed guidelines," and "overseen by a Fed trade and Fed compliance officer," according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The investment was touted as--say it with me--high return with low risk.

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"Investors also were told that once the investment program passed compliance, it would become registered in Washington, D.C., with the Fed," a DOJ release says. Once the investment was registered, investors would then meet a Federal Reserve official and/or the chairman of the board of a major U.S. bank.

The defendants claimed that these Fed investment programs existed primarily to generate funds for project funding and humanitarian purposes, such as for hurricane relief efforts. An offshore account would be managed by a Swiss banker.

The "potential investors" being pitched the $1 billion scam were undercover FBI agents.

This week, Ferry, 71, of Newport Beach, Calif., was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison. Clinton, 65, of San Diego, Calif., was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison. Martin, 64, of New Jersey, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet