Kathy Bazoian Phelps
Senior Counsel in Ponzi Scheme Litigation
and Bankruptcy Matters

Kathy is a senior business trial attorney with more than 30 years experience prosecuting and defending claims for high net worth clients involved in Ponzi scheme matters and in bankruptcy proceedings. Kathy’s practice includes recovering assets for clients in complex fraud cases under standard fee and alternative fee arrangements. She also handles SEC and CFTC whistleblower claims. Kathy also serves as a mediator in bankruptcy matters, in complex business disputes, and in matters requiring detailed knowledge about fraud or Ponzi schemes.

Kathy’s Clients in Ponzi Scheme Cases and Bankruptcy Matters
Equity Receivers
Bankruptcy Trustees
High Net Worth Investors
Debtors in Bankruptcy
Secured and Unsecured Creditors

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Below is a summary of the activity reported for January 2023.

The start of 2023 saw at least 7 new Ponzi schemes reported worldwide, and at least 7 new criminal sentences were imposed for a total of about 32 years. There was also 1 guilty pleas and 3 criminal convictions. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 49. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Gregory Altieri, 55, was ordered to pay $23 million to the SEC in connection with a Ponzi scheme that raised almost $70 million from at least 80 investors, most of whom were firefighters and police officers.  The scheme promised returns ranging from 30% to 100% from a jewelry business. 

Charles Richard Burgess aka Dick Burgess, 67, of Vancouver, was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 32 investors out of $4.3 million. Burgess had pleaded guilty, selling 64 investors $13.6 million in unregistered investments. He took more than the 50% of the pool profits that he represented was his fee, but tried to blame COVID-19 for the loss of funds.

Carl Carro, 62, and James Doyle, 74, were sentenced in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Endeavor Management Solutions and Endeavor Consultancy. Carro was sentenced to 4 to 8 years and Doyle to 5 years’ probation. They took in over $1,000,000 from more than 50 investors. Endeavor was supposedly a headhunting firm hired by prestigious clients to find candidates for openings on their boards of directors. Carro and Doyle represented that the investor funds would be held in an untouched cash reserve account that held over $1 million, and investors were guaranteed a 10% to 20% return after 30 days. They spent over $500,000 of the funds on personal expenses and to pay returns to earlier investors. 

Yossi Engel, 35, of California, was sued by the SEC on allegations that he ran a $47 million Ponzi scheme through iWitness Tech LLC that targeted Orthodox Jewish community members from December 2018 to January 2021. Engel represented that he needed capital for his business installing security cameras and that investors would receive returns form fees generated by the business. iWitness was never profitable and only ever brought in about $20,000. Engel admitted to running a Ponzi scheme in 2021 and then fled to Israel. Engel spent the funds at casinos, flying on private jets, and funding a lavish lifestyle.

Arley Ray Johnson, 63, of Maryland, was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in connection with a $28 million Ponzi scheme involving 1st Million, a purported wealth management and financial literacy company. Johnson conspired with Dennis Mbongeni Jali, 37, and John Erasmus Frimpong, 42, to defraud investors through several related entities including The Smart Partners LLC, which did business as 1st Million Dollars or 1st Million. The scheme promised monthly returns ranging from 6% to 35%.

Katie Lynn Mancuso, 41, of Tennessee, was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison in connection with a $2.8 million scheme she ran through Gray Area Marketing. Mancuso had falsely represented that her agency had been awarded contracts to perform marketing services for professional athletes and she overstated Gray Area’s assets and receivables. She promised returns within 90 days of 15% to 25%. She solicited funds from at least 26 investors, causing total losses of more than $1.1 million. 

Robert Cortez Marshall, 43, was sentenced to 2 years and 10 months in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through R.B.J. Generational Wealth Management LLC dba Adz on Wheelz. The scheme solicited more than $5 million from more than 200 investors. Marshall represented that Adz on Wheelz owned and operated a fleet of luxury vehicles that could be customized for digital advertising and that the company received millions of dollars in contracts from advertisers. Investors were promised guaranteed weekly returns and told they could cancel anytime and receive a refund of their investment. 

Austin Danger Ellison-Meade, 24, was sued by the SEC on allegations that he defrauded 31 investors out of $2.8 million. Ellison-Meade represented he was using a proprietary trading algorithm that he developed and that he was the managing partner of an investment club and pooled investment vehicle called Baycap.io. The SEC alleges that Ellison-Meade did not use the funds to invest but represented to investors that “this year we have a projection of around 800% returns.” 

Kumar Arun Neppalli, 56, was indicted on 23 charges relating to an alleged Ponzi scheme that targeted the Indian American community in North Carolina. Neppalli, a native of India, allegedly defrauded 15 investors out of $1.9 million in connection with business loans and a real estate development scheme in North Carolina.

Kumar Arun Neppalli, 56, of North Carolina, was arrested on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors in the Indian community. Neppalli allegedly defrauded 15 investors out of $1.9 million in business loans scheme, and 12 investors out of $900,000 in connection with a real estate development scheme.

Nestor Nuñez a/k/a Salvador Molina, 64, was arrested in Spain on fraud charges, and Ramon Perez, 40, surrendered in connection with an alleged cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme known as Forcount. Last month, criminal charges were brought against Francisley Da Silva, Juan Tacuri, and Antonia Perez Hernandez in connection with the scheme. The scheme was based in Brazil and defrauded Spanish-speaking investors. Perez is accused of laundering proceeds through shell companies and real estate. Nunez is accused of being an actor paid by Da Silva to present himself as Forcount’s CEO using the alias Salvador Molina. Jose Ramiro Coronado Reyes has also already been charged in connection with the scheme.

Judith Dianne Paris-Pinder, 49, of Florida, was sentenced to 4 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 500 people out of $2.4 million. Paris-Pinder was president of Pinder Associations Inc. and took in about $4.6 million from investors under the pretense that she represented litigation plaintiffs who had settled claims and were just awaiting payouts from insurance companies. Paris-Pinder solicited funds from “hard money lenders” to finance payments to the plaintiffs pending payment of the settlement checks, at which time she represented she could pay returns as high as 50%. She previously pleaded guilty and admitted that she did not work with lawyers and that there were no settlement agreements.

Abner Tinoco, 27, of Texas, pleaded guilty to charges relating to his operation of a Ponzi scheme. The scheme brought in about $9 million, and Tinoco spent about half of that on personal expenses including luxury cars, private jets, real estate, and jewelry. Tinoco represented that he would invest their funds in cryptocurrency and foreign exchange markets. The CFTC had previously reported that Tinoco misappropriated over $7.2 million from at least 322 investors.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

India

MD Nurul Hague, Khagokpam Jogeshwari Devi, and Nongmaithem Sharmila Devi were found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme through MDFI. The mastermind’s father-in-law, Khagokpam Kham ba Singh, and brother-in-law, Khagokpam Naoba Singh, are also under investigation.

Authorities arrested Sanasam Jacky Singh, the managing director of Lamjingba Group of companies, in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. The scheme allegedly took in more than Rs 580 crore with a promise of exorbitant returns.

Sheikh Sadiq Ali, Yogesh N., Pramod Gopinath, and Sunil Joshi were arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through E-Biotorium Network Private Limited that received investment funds from over 1,000 customers. 

Philippines

Authorities issued a warning against investing in Ground Zero Poultry Agricultural Corporation. The SEC warned that the company “is enticing the public to participate in its poultry farm pursuits” and stated that investors could invest P20,000 with 36% returns and up to 80% guaranteed returns for lockup periods of 6 months or 12 months.

The Securities and Exchange Commission shut down Silverloin Livestock Trading Corp. on allegations that it was running a Ponzi scheme. The scheme promised returns of 2.3% per day or 35% after 15 days. Criminal charges were filed in December 2022 against CEO Ryan Cagod Ladoing, Renan Lara Ladoing, Rosemarie Alvarez Guzman, Neña Ewayan Algoy, John Paul Dellara Lopez and Michael Villalobos Berja.

Singapore

Daryl Cai Yonghui, 32, was arrested in Thailand in connection with the Forex-3D Ponzi scheme. The scheme defrauded thousands of investors out of more than $608 million. Dozens have been arrested in connection with the scheme, and Eddy Polgari is still at large. Forex-3D founder Apirak Kothi was arrested a year ago.

Ong Jian Zhen was arrested in Thailand and is wanted in Singapore in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme.

Thailand

Police issued 11 arrest warrants in connection with the dietary supplement company Primaya, including for Pichnaree Tantiwit aka May Primaya, the CEO of Primaya. The charges related to wildly exaggerated advertisements for the investment scheme on TikTok and other social media platforms. The company claimed that investors could earn up to 15 million baht in 3 months from an investment of 6,000 baht.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

December 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for December 2022. Closing out the year, at least 13 new Ponzi schemes were reported this month. There were 2 guilty pleas and 3 criminal convictions. About 70 years of prison sentences were imposed. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 45. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Rodney Buckle, 65, of Nevada, was arrested and accused of running a Ponzi scheme through businesses called Rodd United, Rodd U, and Rodd One. He called himself a life coach and financial advisor, offering supposed guidance on stock investments and sports betting. Buckle’s co-defendant, Warisra Stevens, pled guilty last year to securities fraud and was sentenced to 19 months in prison. 

David Carmona, Marco Ruiz Ochoa, Moses Valdez, Juan Arrellano, David Brent, and Gustavo Rodriquez were charged in connection with two alleged cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes known as IcomTech and Forcount Trader Systems (later known as Weltsys). Francisley Da Silva, Juan Tacuri, and Antonia Perez Hernandez were also charged in connection with their involvement with Forcount. IcomTech and Forcount were purported cryptocurrency mining and trading companies. Investors were promised returns in exchange for their purchase of purported cryptocurrency-related investment products. As investors started making complaints because they could not make any withdrawals, the promotes started offering proprietary crypto-tokens known as “Icoms” in the IcomTech scheme and “Mindexcoin” in the Forcount scheme, that they represented would eventually be worth a lot of money. More than $8.4 million was raised in connection with the schemes.

Mauricio Chavez, 41, and Giorgia Benvenuto, 55, are being investigated by the SEC in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through CryptoFX, LLC. More than 5,000 are believed to have invested in the company, which targeted mostly Latino immigrants. Investors were promised up to 15% profit per month.

Milendophe Duperier, 31, and his fiancée, Vanessa Joseph, of Massachusetts, were charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that targeted members of the Haitian community. Duperier is the son of a pastor at a Haitian church, and he worked with Joseph to keep the scheme going for over 2½ years. The pair represented that they had discovered a method to achieve profits by trading options in both bear and bull markets. Neither had any formal training in investing, however. They promised annual interest rates of 60%, paid monthly, but allegedly used the money for their personal expenses, and to buy real estate and luxury vehicles.

John Fernandez, 26, and his two companies, Avail Progression and Elite Generators, were charged by the SEC on allegations that the unregistered schemes were operating fraudulent forex trading schemes. The SEC alleges that they raised over $4.3 million and defrauded more than 100 investors. Fernandez represented that he was a “trading savant with a proven track record who could guarantee returns up to 100% based on his trading strategies in the forex markets.” Instead, Fernandez misappropriated the money to fund his personal lifestyle and made a “litany of excuses” when investors asked for their returns. 

Andrew Fuller, 55, is facing extradition in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Bordeaux Cellars Ltd. and Bordeaux London. Fuller is accused of lying about the size and vintage of the firm’s fine wine collection and defrauding investors out of $99 million. Fuller is alleged to have assisted the firm founder Stephen Burton, who pleaded guilty in 2019. Fuller denies the charges and opposes his extradition.

Eugene Fusting, 79, and Christopher Fusting, 52, father and son, were convicted of running a Ponzi-like scheme through a pooled investment fun in securities. They obtained $800,000 but spent the money on personal expenses instead. Eugene was sentenced to 18 months home detention, and Christopher will serve 12 months home detention.

Karl Sebastian Greenwood pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the OneCoin Ponzi scheme. Greenwood was a co-founder of the scheme along with Ruja Ignatova. The scheme took in more than $4 billion worldwide.

Christopher Humphries, 48, lost his motion to dismiss charges by the SEC against him in connection with an alleged scheme run through CJ Investments LLC. A court found that the SEC properly alleged that Humphries sold unregistered securities, was not a registered broker or dealer, and made misleading misrepresentations in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run by Las Vegas attorney, Matthew Beasley.

Austin Delano Page, 27, was sentenced to 8 years in prison and Brandon Alexander Teague, 27, of North Carolina, was sentenced to 4 years in prison in connection with a scheme that defrauded over 300 victims out of more than $4 million. Page and Teague were operating the hedge fund scheme through D&T Investment Group and were supposedly investing in various securities. They promised that principal investments were guaranteed and that investors would receive 70% of the trading profits.

Christopher A. Parris, 42, of Georgia, was sentenced to 20 years and 4 months in prison and ordered to pay $160 million in restitution in connection with the scheme run with business partner, Perry Santillo, 41, through Lucian Development that raised money for City Capital Corporation, a business run by Ephren Taylor. The scheme involved over $115.5 million and defrauded over 1,000 victims. Parris had previously pleaded guilty. Santillo was previously sentenced to 17½ years in prison.  In addition to the Ponzi scheme, Parris had also offered to sell the veterans administration $125 million worth of N95 masks through his company Encore Health Group, and attempted to get a $3 million dollar payment upfront, knowing he did not have the masks. 

Volodimyr Pigida, 48, was convicted on charges relating to a multimillion Ponzi scheme that he ran with his wife, Marina Bondarenko, 39, through Trend Sound Promoter AMG Corp. The scheme was a “work-at-home” email scheme that supposedly conducted advertising and music promotion over the internet. The scheme brought in $22 million, but investors lost about $11 million. Bondarenko pleaded guilty in 2019 and was sentenced to 3 years, 2 months in prison.

Mark Ramkishun, 28, of New York, was charged on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 20 people out of more than $1.3 million. He targeted members of the Healing Center Church, and the church also invested in the scheme. 

Frank Schneider is facing charges in connection with the $4 billion OneCoin Ponzi scheme according to a 2020 indictment unsealed this month. The OneCoin scheme was launched in Bulgaria in 2014, founded by Ruja Ignatova who remains at large. Christopher Hamilton has been extradited to the U.S. and Robert McDonald has avoided extradition on human rights grounds. Mark Scott, the lawyer behind OneCoin, was found guilty in the U.S. of laundering $400 million for the scheme.

Jeremy Spence, 25, of Rhode Island, was ordered to pay over $2.8 million in restitution in connection with the Coin Signals cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. Spence fraudulently solicited investors to invest in digital assets such as bitcoin and ether. He was sentenced to 3½ years in prison in connection with the scheme.

Jay Taylor II pleaded guilty in connection with a $14 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 70 investors. More than 70 investors lost more than $3.5 million in an oil and gas scheme. Taylor promised returns from oil and gas sales revenue on refurbished leases. Bill Marcum Jr. is a co-defendant in connection with the scheme.

Frederick Voight, 65, was sentenced to 6½ years and ordered to pay over $40 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme run from 2009 to 2018. Voight ran the scheme through F.A. Voight and Associates, LP, (FAVA), Voight Financial Services, Inc., and Daystar Funding, LP.  Voight represented to investors that he would search for companies that had an "excellent and innovative product in a growing market" but were short of the cash needed to take their product to market. The investors lost more than $40 million. 

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

India

At least 7 people were arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. Godevari Street ran the scheme through Nine Star Enterprises, bringing in funds and then fleeing with the money. Vanaparthi Venkata Naga Mani Kumar, 48, was one of the accused that was arrested.

Israel

Michael Ben-Ari aka Michael Greenfeld was extradited from Bosnia in connection with a $150 million Ponzi scheme. Ben-Ari is to stand trial for allegedly defrauding investors for 15 years in a large scam in Israel. Ben-Ari has been called the “Israeli Madoff” and ran the scheme through his investment company, EGFE Israel Ltd.

Nigeria

A bench warrant was issued for Dr. Victoria Yemisi Imase-Regal in connection with an alleged N36.45 Ponzi scheme. She was charged along with her four companies, Yellowpoint Group, Media Enterprise, Yellowpoint Investment Limited and Yellow Point FT. International Limited.

Pakistan

Sidra Humaid has been accused of stealing about Rs 420 million from investors, mostly women, in a Ponzi scheme. Humaid owns the “Daily Bites” which is a monthly ballot committee system, and she promoted her scheme on social media.

Philippines

Ryan Cagod Ladoing, 36, is on the run as authorities investigate a scheme Ladoing ran through Silverloin Livestock Trading Corp. Criminal charges were filed against the company's incorporators and officers Renan Lara Ladoing, Rosemarie Alvarez Guzman, Neña Ewayan Algoy, John Paul Dellara Lopez, Michael Villalobos Berja and Ladoing.

Regulators issued cease and desist orders against Sophia Francisco Holding OPC and Beastnessallday Corp. The scheme guaranteed earnings as much as 3% daily for 20 days, or 10% to 12% per month and supposedly involved investments, sale of gadgets, real or personal properties, luxury vehicles, shoes and other apparels.

Authorities confirmed that OTCJKE (also known as OTC Automated Trading Platform and JKE International Limited) and the A Power (also known as APower Pro, A Power PH, APower Power Bank, APower Power Bank Sharing Solution OPC) are illegally soliciting investments. OTCJKE represented that it was a “high-frequency trading encryption platform,” and promised investors that they would earn between 3% and 8% daily which they could withdraw anytime. APower represented that it was a Silicon Valley company and is “an innovative intelligent infrastructure manufacturer and operator for consumer scenarios, that it is committed to mobile charging solutions, providing users with convenient and timely mobile power rental services.”

Authorities are warning the public to exercise caution in dealing with Royal Bull Master Trading International and SPBoss (SPower or Sun Power) as they are alleged to be running Ponzi schemes. The companies were offering 120% returns in 7 days and 180% in 30 days. Investors were also promised 10% to 50% referral commissions.

South Korea

Six executives in the V Global cryptocurrency scheme were sentenced. V Global was a crypto exchange that promised around 50,000 investors 300% returns along with referral fees for brining in new customers.  Mr. Yang and Mr. Oh received 8 and 3-year sentences, respectively, and four others received three-year sentences and five years of probation. The CEO known as Mr. Lee was sentenced to 22 years in early 2022.

Spain

James Robinson, 46, and David Kennedy, 47, were arrested in Spain in connection with the Bar Works Ponzi scheme. They received more than $2 million in commissions from their efforts through their company, United Property Group, to solicit more than $7.5 million into the scam. The U.S. is seeking extradition of the two. The Bar Works scheme offered investments into former bars and restaurants around the world and obtained more than $57 million from at least 800 victims. One of the other perpetrators, Briton James Moore, 60, was previously sentenced to 11 years in prison, and Savraj Gata-Aura, 36, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 4 years.  Renwick Haddow, the main promoter of the scheme, has not yet been sentenced.

United Arab Emirates

Edvard Sabirov was arrested in connection with the Finiko investment scheme that defrauded investors in Russia out of about $95 million. Zygmunt Zygmuntovich was arrested in UAE early in the month, and Russia is pursuing extradition of both back to Russia. Finiko was a crypto investment fund and operated as a multilevel marketing scheme that offered returns of up to 5% a day. Marat Sabirov is still at large. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

November 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for November 2022. There were at least 7 new Ponzi schemes revealed this month. There were two guilty pleas and one ‘not guilty’ plea. There was also one criminal conviction this month and more than 64 years of prison sentences were imposed. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 43. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Syed Arham Arbab, 25, was sued by the SEC along with five others in connection with a “free-riding” scheme in which they made more than $2 million in bogus deposits into brokerage accounts. Arbab is just set to begin a 5-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to running a Ponzi scheme from a fraternity house near the University of Georgia. The current scheme involves using “instant deposit” credit they obtained from the brokerage firms to buy and sell securities online and then to quickly withdraw profits before their accounts were frozen. Arnab’s co-defendants are Tomas Javier Jimenez, 24, Blake Douglas McKinney, 26, Mushfiqur Rahman, 21, John Ryan Shows, 25, and William Carl Spagnoli, 24.

BMO Harris Bank was hit with a jury verdict of $484 in actual damages and $79 million in punitive damages on charges that Marshall & Illsley Bank (M&I), which BMO Harris Bank had acquired in 2011, aiding and abetted Thomas Petters in the breach of his fiduciary duty to his firm, Petters Company Inc. Petters ran a massive Ponzi scheme through Petters Group Worldwide that stole more than $3.7 billion from victims.

David Bunevacz, 53, of California was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison in connection with a $35 million Ponzi scheme involving cannabis. He raised a total of $45.2 million from more than 100 investors. Bunevacz is an American Philippine citizen who is a former UCLA decathlete. He defrauded victims by promising returns from financing companies that marketed cannabis vape pens. Instead, he spent the money on a luxury home, vacations, jewelry, and other lavish expenses. 

Tommie “Tom” Carter Jr, 64, was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison in connection with a scheme in which he took in over $1 million from investors. Carter promised returns from the buying and reselling of real property and distressed business equipment. Derrick R. Trussell is a co-defendant who pleaded guilty in connection with his role of fraudulently offering securities. 

Marc Celello, 51, was sentenced to two years in prison in connection with this role in a $40 million Ponzi scheme. Celello, a former attorney, pleaded guilty in 2019. Celello was the vice president and general counsel of Credit National Capital LLC, a company run by James Torchia that purchases life insurance policies and subprime automobile loans. 

Wynn A.D. Charlebois, 52, of North Carolina, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme and pleaded not guilty. The indictment alleges that Charlebois ran the scheme from 2015 through October 2022 and took in more than $6.9 million from more than 39 investors. The alleged scheme was through WC Private, Wilcox Hybrid and Damon Investments. Charlebois represented that he had stock options in certain companies and investors could purchase the options and make profits. 

FTX owned by Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, filed bankruptcy. While no determination has yet been made that FTX was operating as a Ponzi scheme, the allegations of fraud and lack of any internal controls or accounting were substantial. 

Rathnakishore Giri, 27, of Ohio, was arrested on charges that he was running a cryptocurrency investment scheme that raised at least $10 million from investors. The indictment states that Giri held himself out as an expert cryptocurrency trader with a specialty in bitcoin derivatives and promised investors profits with no risk to principal. In reality, Giri was allegedly using funds from new investors to pay off earlier investors. Giri was charged by the CFTC earlier in the year.

Brad Heinrichs, of Idaho, was sentenced to a year of house arrest and 10 years of probation for his role in a Ponzi scheme run by Stephen J. Hatch. The scheme defrauded over 100 investors and involved the use of Bible quotes and religion to prey on investors. Over $82 million was raised on promises of returns from real estate, but the real property was over-leveraged despite promises to investors that their investments were secured by deeds of trust.

Horizon Private Equity III LLC and Livingston Group Asset Management Co. dba Southport Capital were ordered to pay $60.9 million and $5 million, respectively, in connection with a Ponzi scheme that left investors with claims of $110 million. John J. Woods, the architect of the scheme, disputes the SEC’s allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme. 

Jebara Igbara, aka Jay Mazini, 27, of New Jersey, through his Instagram account, pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme that targeted New York’s Muslim-American community. He solicited money in return for stock, electronics, and COVID-19 protective equipment and also created a bitcoin scheme promising high rates of return in a short period of time. Igbara allegedly stole at least $8 million. Igbara launched Halal Capital LLC in 2019 and claimed he was worth $33 million. In March, Igbara was sentenced to 5 years in prison for kidnapping and beating a rival who threatened to expose him.

Adrian John Kawuba, 33, of Massachusetts, was charged in connection with a sports venture in Africa. Kawuba promised returns to investors through supposedly lucrative “international sports and entertainment projects, principally in Africa.” He offered returns as high as 60% from the supposed finance of “short-term private financing solutions to soccer clubs for transfer market transactions and deals.”

Royce Newcomb, 60, of California, was indicted on charges that he ran a $4.2 million Ponzi scheme through Strategic Innovations LLC and that he took out fraudulent COVID-19 and other government loans of more than $260,000. Newcomb’s company supposedly made technology that was to fight package thefts and prevent weather damage to packages. The scheme ran for about 5 years.

Joshua David Nicholas was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison in connection with the crypto platform, EmpiresX. Nicholas claimed that EmpiresX would make daily “guaranteed” returns using a trading bot that utilized “artificial and human intelligence” to maximize returns. Nicholas operated the scheme with Emerson Pires and Flavio Goncalves. The scheme run for two years.

Steven Parish and his company Premiere Global Corporation, of Kentucky, were sued by state securities commissions on allegations that they are running a Ponzi scheme. Parish and other owners raised about $100 million from at least 570 investors, using the money to buy real estate in Belize and Las Vegas. Parish is currently on the run.

Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, both 37 and from Estonia, were arrested in Estonia following a joint investigation by U.S. and Estonian authorities. They are accused of running a series of cryptocurrency and money laundering scams that defrauded hundreds of thousands of victims out of $575 million. The scheme was running since 2013 under the business called HashCoins. The business purportedly manufactured and sold Bitcoin and other virtual-currency-mining hardware and equipment, requiring full payment when equipment was ordered. In reality, the company did not manufacture its own equipment and instead of providing refunds, the company promised a percentage of profits from a new mining operation called HashFlare.  They also created another company called Polybius Bank that was to be funded through an initial coin offering that raised more than $25 million.  

Jamie Thompson and William Logsdon were arrested and charged with running a scheme through National Royalty Group that involved the selling of oil and gas leases. The scheme defrauded investors out of nearly $1 million.

Douver Torres Braga, 45, Joff Paradise, 60, Keleionalani Akana Taylor, and Jonathan Tetreault were sued by the SEC for their roles in the Trade Coin Club Ponzi scheme that raised more than 82,000 Bitcoin valued at $295 million from more than 100,000 investors worldwide. The scheme promised returns from the trading activities of a purported crypto asset trading bot that supposedly made “millions of microtransactions every second” to assure minimum daily trading profits. The scheme promised .35% daily. Tetreault agreed to pay about $781,000 to settle an SEC complaint that he had run a Ponzi scheme that raised $295 million in Bitcoin..

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Australia

Tony Iervasi pleaded guilty to charges relating to a $180 million Ponzi scheme run through Courtenay House and Courtenay House Capital Trading Group, both of which are now in liquidation.

India

Two individuals were accused of running two Ponzi schemes through Aryan Pratidin Fund and Aryan Reserve Fund

Malta

Authorities warned that QuickX Ltd. is a Ponzi scheme involving cryptocurrency. QuickX was launched in 2018 by brothers Vaibhav Adhlakha and Kshitij Adhlakha.

South Korea

Two suspects were wanted in connection with an international scheme that defrauded thousands of victims in South Korea. The Polish suspect, 49, and the German suspect, 61, were arrested in Greece and Italy.

Authorities are investigating a crypto mining firm names Btbank aka OK-Bit, which has failed to pay back investors after promising monthly returns of up to 12%.

Thailand

Authorities are seeking extradition of two individuals, one Hungarian, Eddy Polgari, and another Singaporean, Daryl Cai Younghui, in connection with the Forex-3d scam. They are among 16 suspects in connection with the Forex-3D scheme and believed to be close friends of Apiruk Kothi, the owner of Forex-3D.

Trinidad and Tobago

New regulations make it a crime to “establish, operate, advertise or participate in ‘prohibited schemes’” which includes Ponzi and pyramid schemes. The regulations also criminalize activity of inviting people to join a prohibited scheme – “For knowingly advertising or inviting another person to join a prohibited scheme a person is liable, if convicted, to pay $2,000,000 or to imprisonment for 3 years.”


Monday, October 31, 2022

October 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for October 2022. New Ponzi schemes and lots of prison sentences dominated the Ponzi scheme news this month. There were at least 7 new schemes reported worldwide and 101 years of prison sentences were imposed. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 52. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

John Acker, 53, of Florida, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution in connection with a $4 million scheme that he ran through shell companies including Miracle Strip Holdings X LLC, Miracle Strip Holdings XV LLC, Fujimo Development LLC, and Shipwreck Road LLC.

Michael Atkins, 49, is being held in custody in Ohio as authorities seek to extradite him to Singapore in connection with an alleged $4 million Ponzi scheme. Atkins is one of three directors of Aureus Capital, a foreign exchange trader in Singapore. The scheme promised returns of 40% to 50%. Atkins had fled Singapore by obtaining a new passport at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta after his original passport had been taken by Singaporean authorities,

Darrek Arnold Aviss, 64, of California, was sentenced to 11 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay about $14.5 million in restitution in connection with a scheme that stole about $14 million.  The scheme involved the purchase of annuities from insurance companies based in Switzerland and promised interest rates ranging from 5% to 7%.

Vania May Bell, 57, of New Jersey, was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and ordered to pay about $8 million in restitution in connection with the scheme run through Executive Compensation Planners. Bell helped run the scheme with her father, Hector May. The scheme involved more than $11 million stolen from 15 clients. May is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence.

Joshua Burrell, 39, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and ordered to pay $5 million in restitution in connection with a scheme that brought in $6.3 million from 14 investors. The scheme was run through Activated Capital.

Mauricio Chavez, 41, of Texas, was sued by the SEC in connection with his company, CryptoFX, which he founded with Giorgio Benvenuto, 55. The SEC alleges that Chavez was running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 5,000 investors, mostly in the Latino community. Chavez represented that investors could earn back half their investment in profits in 3 months and 90% in six months. The scheme raised more than $12 million but only $1 million was invested in crypto assets. Most of the money went to buy real estate, was used for personal expenses, and was diverted to their company, CBT Group

Michael J. DaCorta, 57, of Florida, was sentenced to 23 years in prison in connection the scheme run through Oasis International Group, Ltd. At least 700 investors lost more than $80 million in the scheme. Investor were told the investments were risk-free and that OASIS was profiting by being a “market maker” and collecting “spread” on FOREX trades. In fact, Oasis had no true revenue. DaCorta used investor funds to buy a Maserati and Range Rovers for his family members, a country club membership, multiple million-dollar homes in Florida, college tuition for family members, flights on private jets, and vacations.

Ray E. Grabato II, 43, Daniel Coley O’Brien, Thomas Nicholas Salzano, 64, and Arther S. Scuttaro, 62, along with the New Jersey-based company, National Realty Investment Advisors, LLC (NRIA), were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged scheme that raised approximately $650 million from about 2,000 investors. The scheme promised investors returns of up to 20% from the supposed purchase and development of real estate properties. Olena Budinska and Jamie Samul aka Jamie Samul Salzano were named as relief defendants. The real estate fund was operated through NRIA Partners Portfolio Fund I LLC. Salzano, Scuttaro, and Grabato were criminally charged. Scuttaro pleaded guilty.

Arley Ray Johnson, 63, or Maryland, was convicted in connection with a $28 million Ponzi scheme run through The Smart Partners LLC dba 1st Million and 1st Million Dollars. Co-defendant Dennis Mbongeni Jali fled the country but has since been arrested in South Africa, and co-defendant John Erasmus Frimpong, 42, previously pleaded guilty. 1st Million held itself out as a wealth management and financial literacy company and offered a 12-month guaranteed investment contracts called “Corporate Guarantees.” Monthly returns of 6% to 35% were promised to investors, and more than 1,200 investors were defrauded. 

Anna Kline fka Jordana Weber, 33, of New Jersey, was indicted on charges relating to all alleged $7 million advance fee Ponzi scheme.  Kline owned and operated several companies that purported to loan money to small business in high value loans, often in excess of $100 million. A fee of up to 5% of the potential loan amount was charged as a “fee” prior to the loan being funded. Kline used the fees for personal expenses, along with her significant other, Jason Torres. 

Ari J. Lauer was sued by the SEC in connection with the DC Solar Solutions Ponzi scheme. The SEC alleges that Lauer deceived investors and help run the fraudulent scheme that brought in more than $910 million of investor funds. Lauer was paid more than $4.4 million in ill-gotten gains. Lauer was allegedly aware of the lack of legitimate lease revenue and provided false financial information to at least one investor. Owners Jeffrey Carpoff, 51, and Paulette Carpoff, 48, were sentenced to 30 years and 11 years, respectively.

Andrew Middlebrooks, of Michigan, was charged with running an alleged Ponzi scheme through EIA All Weather Alpha Fund Partners. He developed a specialized research program to analyze stocks and funds in real time but was unable to produce the returns promised to investors. Middlebrook reported positive returns of 135.74% when he knew EIA had incurred losses over $13 million. The alleged losses to at least 100 investors exceeded $27 million. 

Richard Lee Ramirez, 53, of California, was indicted on charges that he was running a “Ponzi-style” scheme through his company, JMJ Capital Group. The alleged scheme brought in at least $8 million from investors, promising returns of 10% to 14% within 90 days based on the supposed purchase and resale of personal protective equipment (PPE), factoring of accounts receivable, imports of furniture, and refurbishment of cruise ship air-conditioning units. Instead, Ramirez used the funds to pay for luxury cars, travel, other personal expenses, and to pay other investors. He allegedly stole at least $5 million of the $8 million he received from investors.

Perry Santillo, 42, of Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through First Nationle Solution LLC, Percipience Global Corporation, and United RL Capital Services LLC. The business reportedly used several names including Advice and Life Group, Poconos Investments, First American Securities and Financial Planners Group of America. Santillo admitted in his plea agreement that he took in approximately $115 million from investors who lost $70.7 million. 

Trendon Shavers, of Texas, was ordered imprisoned for civil contempt after he refused to produce certain documents and payments to the SEC. Shavers and his company, Bitcoin Savings and Trust, were previously sued by the SEC on allegations that they were running a bitcoin Ponzi scheme. Separately, Shavers pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges. 

Stephen Romney Swensen, deceased, was sued by the SEC in Utah along with others in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 50 investors out of more than $29 million. Investors placed their money with Crew Capital Group LLC, a Nevada entity, and were promised returns between 5% and 10%. Crew Capital did not purchase any securities with the money, but Swensen siphoned off the money for his own expenses instead. Clients were given false documents showing Pacific Investment Management Company as a subadvisor to Crew Capital. The SEC alleges that Crew Capital continues to display false information to investors on its website and the investor funds sent to Crew Capital is now being spent and dissipated.

David Varrone, 56, and his wife Sherry Varrone, of Florida, were charged in connection with an alleged scheme run through The Credit Engineers Inc. that took in approximately $6.4 million. The scheme was a credit leasing scheme in which individuals with good credit were offered a short-term “Credit Leasing” investment program that was tied to a purported hedge fund that would pay a guaranteed return and fully repay the loans within 3 years or less. The Varrones helped victims apply for the high interest, short-terms loans and then “lease” the proceeds to The Credit Engineers. 

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Brazil

Authorities raided 20 addressed linked to the crypto fraud network controlled by Francisco Valdevino da Silva aka “Sheikh dos Bitcoins.” The scheme promised returns of up to 20% and took about $766 million from thousands of investors.

Canada

Sabrina Ling Huei Wei, James Bernard Law, and Justin Colin Villarin were found to have conspired in securities violations in connection with a scheme run through DFRF Enterprises LLC that was promoted by Daniel Fernandes Rojo Filho. They were found to have actively solicited investors on DFRF’s behalf when they knew or should have known that Filho was running a fraudulent scheme. The scheme promised investors returns from gold mining operations in Africa and Brazil that did not actually exist.

Larry Renton, who was being investigated for running a Ponzi scheme through The Miami Group, passed away. Renton was 58 and was a retired police officer who had allegedly defrauded friends and fellow officers.

England

David Ames,70, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 8,000 investors out of £398 million. The scheme involved luxury Caribbean holiday homes and was run through Harlequin Group, a hotel and resort development venture. Harlequin sold about 9,000 property units to investors, but fewer than 200 were actually built.

Abdul Mukith, 42, was sentenced to 8½ years in jail in connection with a scheme run with four others through Essex and London Properties Ltd, which falsely claimed to refurbish properties along the Elizabeth Line.

PGI Global U.K. was shut down after it allegedly defrauded investors out of about $709,000. Investors were promised returns of up to 200%. PGI is part of Praetorian Group International Trading, which was shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

India

The crypto trading app, Ece Limited, vanished and is being investigated by authorities. The platform had more than 19,000 members. Ece claimed to be a U.S.-based firm and gave a $200 bonus to those who brought in new investors.

Jaydeep Raha, the managing director of Jetex Ocenair Pvt Ltd. was arrested on allegations he was running a fraudulent scheme in which Rs 1.83 crore were diverted to the account of OAK India Multistate Credit Co-operative Society of which Raha is the current managing director. 

Pradeep Sethy was sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Artha Tatwa Group.

Sanjay Kumar Singh was arrested on allegations that he colluded with Soumyarp Bhowmik in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Sunmarg Welfare Organisation

Sri Lanka

Five individuals, including Shamal Keerthi Bandara and Zhang Kai, were arrested in connection with a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme called Sports Chain, which was supposedly a cryptocurrency investment platform. Investors were directed to transfer their “Sports Chain coins” to an option called the “Power Pool” where the coins would supposedly be multiplied times 5.

Uganda

BLQ Football Club shut down after cause losses that are believed to be greater than Shs60 billion.


Friday, September 30, 2022

September 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for September 2022. News in cryptocurrency schemes was prevalent this month, with 16 cryptocurrency firms hitting the Ponzi scheme news. At least 16 new Ponzi schemes worldwide were reported this past month, along with 4 guilty pleas, and more than 88 years of prison sentences. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 47. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Glenn Arcaro, 45, of California, was sentenced to 38 months in prison in connection with the BitConnect cryptocurrency scheme. He fraudulently marketed the scheme that defrauded at least 4,500 people and involved $2.4 billion. Arcaro promised guaranteed returns from BitConnect’s “Trading Bot” and “Volatility Software.” BitConnect’s founder, Satish Kumbhani of India, was indicted earlier this year. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for August 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 4 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 1 guilty plea, more than 71 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 51 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Gino Accettola, 55, was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison in connection with a scheme in which 17 people were defrauded out of over $4 million. He promised investors high short-term returns from investments in supposed commercial construction projects in Michigan and Florida. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

July 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for July 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 3 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 2 guilty pleas, more than 53 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 47 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Paulette Carpoff, 48, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $661 million in restitution in connection with the scheme run with her husband, Jeff Carpoff, through DC Solar. Jeff Carpoff was previously sentenced to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay $790.6 million in restitution. DC Solar manufactured solar generator units to be mounted on trailers, but generators were sold that did not exist.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Cryptocurrency in Bankruptcy: Breaking It Into Small Bytes

By Kathy Bazoian Phelps

July 24, 2022

This article covers the Who, What, Where and Hows of issues arising when cryptocurrency lands in a bankruptcy proceeding, with a particular focus on cryptocurrency exchanges and investment funds. Those who think they own the cryptocurrency reflected on their monthly statements may want to keep reading to learn how to assess the risks associated with those exchanges and investments.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

June 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for June 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 6 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, one guilty plea, more than 50 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 53 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for May 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 12 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 convictions, 2 guilty pleas, more than 64 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 54 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for April 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 8 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, more than 39 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 49 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

March 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for March 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 15 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 4 guilty pleas, more than 30 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 56 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

February 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for February 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, nearly 54 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 53 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Monday, January 31, 2022

January 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for January 2022. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, more than 48 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 47 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

December 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for December 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 2 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 4 guilty pleas, more than 48 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 46 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for November 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 3 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 1 guilty plea, more than 116 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 45 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

October 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for October 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 8 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 1 guilty plea, more than 78 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 55 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

September 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for September 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 8 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 6 guilty pleas, more than 67 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 50 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for August 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 4 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, more than 32 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 57 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

July 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for July 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 5 guilty pleas, more than 72 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 52 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

George S. Blankenbaker Jr., 56, was sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with a fraudulent scheme run through his companies, three business entities, Stargrower Commercial Bridge Loan Fund 1 LLC, Stargrower Asset Management LLC and EDU Holding Trust. More than 100 individuals invested more than $10 million in the scheme that supposedly needed funds to finance the use of shipping containers of food. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

June 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for June 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 9 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 2 guilty pleas, more than 34 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 46 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Lee Anglin, 50, was sentenced to 6 months in prison. He had been released from prison three years ago after serving 12 of his 15-year prison sentence for a $10 million real estate Ponzi scheme. He was sentenced again for after violating the terms of his probation by engaging in new money-making schemes that included providing legal services for inmates even though he isn’t a lawyer and negotiating to buy two businesses in Utah.

Monday, May 31, 2021

May 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for May 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 4 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 1 guilty plea, about 77 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 55 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Ted Brent Alexander, 55, and Jon Darrell Seawright, 49, of Mississippi, were indicted on charges relating to the $100 million scheme run through Madison Timber Properties LLC that was owned by Arthur Lamar Adams. The two solicited over $20 million from more than 50 investors in connection with the scheme. The scheme promised guaranteed returns to investors who thought they were lending money to a broker enterprise purchasing timber that was then to be marketed to multiple lumber mills.

Friday, April 30, 2021

April 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for April 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 4 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, about 22 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 49 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

George S. Blankenbaker Jr., 54, of Indianapolis was charged and agreed to plead guilty in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Stargrower Commercial Bridge Loan Fund 1 LLC, Stargrower Asset Management LLC, and EDU Holding Trust. Blankenbaker is the president of Stevia Corp. About 109 people invested more than $11 million in the scheme and were told that their funds would be used to finance the use of shipping containers of food in the international consumer products market. Blankenbaker instead diverted funds for personal expenses and unrelated business ventures. A total of over $1.4 million was lost by 34 investors. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for March 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, about 50 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 47 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Jose Angel Aman, 51, of Florida, the co-founder of Argyle Coin, was banned from the securities industry but also released from an obligation to pay a $4.5 million fine to the SEC after more than $23.8 million was paid to the SEC in restitution in a parallel case. Aman operated three successive Ponzi schemes and was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2019.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for February 2021. The reported stories reflect at least 3 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 1 guilty plea, over 62 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 51 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Edison Denizard, 41, of Florida, was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months in connection with a music concert scheme. Denizard, along with his co-conspirator, Andres Fernandez, represented that investor funds would be used for specific music concerts by top artists. Victims lost about $7.5 million in the scheme. Fernandez previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

January 2021 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for January 2021. The reported stories reflect at least  3 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 4 guilty pleas, 16 years of prison sentences and one life sentence, and an average age of approximately 51 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Stacey L. Bean, 35, and Travis Laska, 26, were fined $7,500 each in connection with their role with the VisionQuest Wealth Management LLC Ponzi scheme run by Stephen C. Peters. They were accused of assisting in a fraudulent offering of $10.1 million in promissory notes. Peters also owned VisionQuest Capital LLC and VQ Wealth LLC.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

December 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for December 2020. The reported stories reflect at least  3 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 3 guilty pleas, over 30 years of prison sentences and one life sentence, and an average age of approximately 56 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Sanjeev Acharya, of California, and his company SiliconSage Builders LLC aka Silicon Sage Builders, were charged by the SEC with running an alleged $119.2 million Ponzi scheme. The scheme promised returns to investors of 23% per year. Silicon Sage financed real estate projects in northern California by selling promissory notes and membership interests in entities that loaned money to the projects. The scheme targeted the South Asian community in northern California.

Monday, November 30, 2020

November 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of the activity reported for November 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 9 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 1 guilty plea, over 34 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 60 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Joseph S. Anile II, 56, was sentenced to 10 years and prison and ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution in connection with the Oasis International Group Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of $72 million. The scheme involved foreign exchange trading that defrauded at least 700 investors. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

October 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for October 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 9 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 6 guilty pleas, 202 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 51 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.   

Steven F. Brown, 52, an accountant in California, agreed to plead guilty to charges that he ran a $3.3 million Ponzi scheme that promised investors returns from foreign exchange currency. Brown ran the scheme through Alpha Trade Analytics Inc. and promised investors monthly returns of around 10%.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

September 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for September 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 11 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 4 guilty pleas, 31 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 59 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.   

Joseph Frank Abel, 50, of California, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a cryptocurrency mining fraud that involved at least $722 million. Abel admitted that he sold unregistered securities for BitClub Network. Matthew Brent Goettsche, Russ Albert Medlin, Jobadiah Sinclair Weeks were also charged in connection with the scheme. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for August 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 9 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 2 guilty pleas, 55 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 56 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.
   
Clarence Dean Alford, 67, was charged by the SEC for allegedly defrauding investors in a Ponzi scheme run through Allied Energy Services, LLC. The scheme involved at least 100 investors out of about $23 million, promising them returns of 12% to 34% from investments in energy projects.

Friday, July 31, 2020

July 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps
Below is a summary of the activity reported for July 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 10 new Ponzi schemes worldwide, 5 guilty pleas, 95 years of prison sentences, and an average age of approximately 54 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.
   
Gregory Altieri, 53, the president of LNA Associates, was charged in New York with running a Ponzi scheme that took in between $75 million and $85 million from more than 80 investors. Altieri promised investors a 30% to 70% return within months from nonexistence wholesale jewelry deals where he would supposedly buy jewelry at closeout prices and resell it at a high profit.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of the activity reported for June 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 8 new Ponzi schemes worldwide and an average age of approximately 55 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.

Timothy J. Allcott, 58, and Thomas D. Renison, were charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through ARO Equity LLC. In a parallel proceeding commenced by the SEC, it was alleged that Allcott and Renison raised more than $6 million from at least 15 investors, promising interest payments between 8% and 12% per year.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of the activity reported for May 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide; at least 2 guilty pleas and convictions; and an average age of approximately 59 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.
   
Neil Burkholz, 82, and Frank Bianco, 70, of Florida, were ordered to pay $2.8 million in disgorgement and penalties in connection with a $6 million Ponzi scheme run through Palm Financial Management and Shore Management Systems. The scheme defrauded at least 55 investors and targeted elderly investors.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

April 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of the activity reported for April 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide; at least 3 guilty pleas and convictions; new prison sentences of 39 years; and an average age of approximately 59 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.
   
Blessing Loom, an alleged Ponzi scheme, has resurfaced in Utah. The scheme, promoted on social media, displays an octagon that must be filled with names of participants. It promises that if the investor pays $100 to get a spot and recruits other people, then the investor name makes it to the center of the octagon, and will be paid $800.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of the activity reported for March 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 7 new Ponzi schemes worldwide; at least 4 guilty pleas and convictions; and an average age of approximately 53 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.
   
Stacey L. Beane, 35, Justin N. Deckert, 30, and Travis Laska, 26, were accused by the SEC of helping to hide a Ponzi scheme run through VisonQuest Wealth Management LLC. The three were employees of VisionQuest and are accused of assisting in a fraudulent offering of $10.1 million in promissory notes. Stephen C. Peters was the owner and principle of VisionQuest, and he also owned VisionQuest Capital LLC and VQ Wealth LLC.