Mark Griffin, head of the Utah Division of Securities, told Congress last week that the current statute of limitations on securities fraud should be lengthened.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that civil litigation against someone who has cheated someone in stock scams must be started within one year of the discovery of the crime and within three years of the actual crime itself. Congress is now debating whether the statute of limitations should be extended through new law."Curbs on private actions brought by victimized small investors - as a result of either unrealistically short statutes of limitation or procedural restrictions - send the devastating message that fraud no longer will be discouraged and penalized as it has been in the past," Griffin told the Senate Securities Subcommittee. "Such a message could not come at a worse time and could well erode confidence in the capital markets, reduce investment and increase the cost of raising capital for U.S businesses."

Griffin says Ponzi schemes or limited partnership fraud schemes often run longer than three years - in some cases up to five or seven years before they fall apart and people's money disappears. Until the Supreme Court ruling, Utah investors had up to four years to file suit against those who cheated them in stock frauds.