MOSCOW, June 1 - RAPSI. MMM-2011 Ponzi scheme founder Sergei Mavrodi will be held liable if the pyramid collapses, Russian lawyers surveyed by the Russian Legal Information Agency said.

Mavrodi will not avoid prosecution despite having warned depositors about the high risk of losing their money. He has published information on his web site stating that the company is a Ponzi scheme, disclaiming any guarantees or promises, and explaining that its depositors run the risk of losing their money at any moment.

"The man remains a crook and must be prosecuted, even if he warns people about the fraud. The warning does not absolve him of liability," lawyer Igor Trunov said.

MMM-2011 (the three letters stand for "We Can Do a Lot" in Russian) uses an online payment system, WebMoney, to allow investors to buy tickets that work like shares, but have no real value. The project's mastermind has promised investors returns of 20-30 percent per month.

A former mathematician, Mavrodi was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for fraud and was released only in May 2007. In the early 1990s, between 10 and 15 million people were victims of his MMM Ponzi scheme. Mavrodis debt to his clients is estimated at nearly 5 billion rubles ($151.8).

Mavrodi characterizes the new project as a "financial social network."

"Financial experts foresaw the collapse of МММ-2011 long ago as the project was fraudulent from its very first days," lawyer Vladimir Zherebyonkov said. Mavrodi "plays with both the state authorities and the people," he added.