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
Whistleblowers
Debtors in Bankruptcy
Secured and Unsecured Creditors

Friday, May 31, 2024

May 2024 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for May 2024. There were at least 11 new Ponzi schemes revealed this month and 4 guilty pleas. Ponzi schemers received more than 70 years of prison sentences. The average age of the fraudsters was about 48 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Jarod Cervoni, 45, was charged in connection with a Ponzi-like scheme that defrauded investors out of $400,000. He ran the scheme through Square 1 Wellness and Square 1 Performance.

Derek Vincent Chu, 41, of California, was indicted in connection with a $39 million alleged Ponzi scheme. The scheme involved over 100 people and involved investments in the supposed purchase and resale of NBA tickets.

Idin Dalpour, 39, of New York, was indicted on charges that he was running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims out of at least $43 million. Dalpour represented he was investing in a Las Vegas hospitality business and a crypto trading operation. The scheme was run from 2020 through 2024. Dalpour did not invest the money but instead used the money for gambling and tuition for his children, among other things. 

Schlomo Erez, 56, of Israel, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein to run a Ponzi scheme involving $35 million. Four of Erez’s conspirators – Christopher Anderson, 47, Richard Curry, 36, Alaa Hattab, 35, and Joel Wittels, 57 – previously pleaded guilty to the scheme. Weinstein had previously run a scheme through Optimus Investments Inc. and Tryon Management Group LLC that defrauded victims out of $230 million. Weinstein had been sentenced to 24 years in prison but his sentenced was commuted by then President Trump after he had served less than 8 years.

Michael French, 40, of South Carolina, was ordered to pay the SEC nearly $25 million.  French sold high-yield promissory notes under his TikTok handle @moneyjust flows. He promised returns of 12% through low-risk investments.

Rand Heckler, 67, of New York, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison and ordered to pay about $919,999 in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims out of $1 million. Heckler solicited funds into a hedge fund of stocks and securities.

David Kagel, 85, of California, pleaded guilty to promoting a $9.5 million Ponzi scheme, Kagel, a disbarred California attorney, operated a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme that falsely guaranteed profits and promised to use artificial intelligence trading bots to generate returns. He also misrepresented that he held $11 million worth of Bitcoin in escrow to guarantee the investments against losses. David Gilbert Saffron, 51, of Australia, and Vincent Anthony Mazzotta Jr., 52, of Los Angeles, were charged in December 2023 for their roles in the same cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme and have both pleaded not guilty.

Joshua Link and Jed Wood, of Texas, were sued by the CFTC in connection with the Agridime LLC cattle scheme that solicited more than $161 million from investors. They represented that investor dollars would be used to buy and sell cattle and promised annual returns of 15% to 20%. Investors thought they were buying a head of live cattle, typically for $2,000, and Agridime was supposed to take care of the actual feeding and caring for the cattle via farmers with whom Agridime partnered, until the cattle was ready to be processed and the beef sold.

John Masanotti, Jr., 69, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Middlesex Mortgage Group LLC based in Connecticut. The scheme defrauded at least 10 investors out of more than $10 million. Masanotti promised returns of between 10% and 20% annually from investments in foreign currency in the fund known as the Middlesex Fund or the MMG Fund.

Joseph Meli, 42, and Steven Simmons, 48, were charged in connection with a ticket reselling business run through Sideris Capital Partners. They raised $81 million from 125 investors, and $48 million was repaid to earlier investors.

Frank Lynold Mercado, of North Carolina, and his advisory firm, Tiger Wolf Capital, LLC, were charged by the SEC on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded over 100 investors. They raised more than $1.4 million claiming they were receiving a “50+” return on investments in securities.

Matthew Motil, 42, was charged by the SEC on allegations that he was running an $11 million Ponzi scheme. Motil hosted a podcast called The Cash Flow King and allegedly defrauded 50 investors. Motil also reached a plea deal in connection with a parallel criminal investigation. Matthew Harriton, 52, was also charged by the SEC in connection with the scheme.

Steven Pasko and Jo Wander were sued on allegations that they were running a $600 million fraudulent scheme through 777 Partners. The lawsuit alleges that 777 was double-pledging assets.

Surage Roshan Perera of New York was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution in connection with a scheme run through Janues Capital Inc. Perera was an investment advisor and represented that he could purchase stock in companies that traded on the NADSAQ and NYSE at discounted prices. He sent fraudulent confirmation notices to his victims. About 15 victims were harmed in the scheme. Perera claimed to exercise a trading strategy called “options straddles” that would not only prevent any trading losses but also, for some of the supposed investments, guaranteed returns on the investment of at least 9% and up to as much as 50%.

Della Fay Perez, of Texas, was arrested on charges that she misappropriated distributions checks from the Robert Allen Stanford receivership. Perez was a neutral third-party responsible for distributing $5.9 billion in restitution to Stanford victims. Approximately 21 checks payable to victims totaling about $460,000 that were deposited into Perez’s IOLTA account never made it to the victims.

Volodimyr Pigida, 49, of Florida, was sentenced to 14 years and 4 months in prison in connection with am $11 million Ponzi scheme. Pigida and his wife, Marina Bondarenko, operated a ‘work-at-home’ email scheme named Trend Sound Promoter. They sold ad-promoting packages and investors were to be paid for email marketing. Pigida failed to show up for his sentencing but was later found hiding behind a false wall in a relative’s house.

Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, both 39, of Estonia, made their initial appearance in their criminal case in Washington following the Estonian government authorizing extradition. Authorities allege that they defrauded hundreds of thousands of victims to purchase contracts in a cryptocurrency mining service called HashFlare. The scheme brought in more than $575 million. The defendants offered contracts under which customers could pay a fee to rent a percentage of HashFlare’s mining operations in exchange for the virtual currency produced by their portion of the operation.

David Gilbert Saffron and his company, Circle Society, were charged by the CFTC in connection with an alleged scheme involving binary options on foreign exchange and cryptocurrency. The scheme allegedly defrauded investors out of $11 million. Saffron guaranteed returns of up to 300%.  

John Sfraga pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a fictitious cryptocurrency scheme. Sfraga promised returns as high as 60% in three months. Investors lost more than $1.3 million. 

John Michael Thibodeaux, 44, of Louisiana, was arrested on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme rather than investing the investors’ money as promised. He paid some victims returns of 10% to 14% per month for about 5 months. 

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Australia

Jack Alexander Endersby, 24, was charged on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims out of $2 million. 

John Louis Anthony Bigatton pleaded guilty to his role in the Bitconnect Ponzi scheme. Bigatton promoted the scheme on social media, seminars and in face-to-face meetings with investors.

Daniel Ali, the former director of DanFX Trade Pty Ltd., was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to running a fraudulent foreign exchange trading business. 

Canada

David Villanueva aka David Carter, 62, was arrested on allegations that he defrauded investors out of more than $1.4 million. The scheme was run through The Factoring Collective. He was accused of running a fake law firm in one city and pretended to be a psychologist in another.

Aiden Pleterski, 25, and Colin Murphy, 27, were arrested on charges relating to an alleged $30 million cryptocurrency and foreign exchange investment scheme. They ran the scheme through AP Private Equity Limited, and Pleterski only invested 2% and spent at least $16 million buying 10 luxury cars, travel and renting a lakefront mansion. 

England

Jonathan Denton, 64, a lawyer formerly with Locke Lord, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Investors collectively lost around £30 million in the scheme that was run with Simon Oakley.

India

Mohan Kumar Parida, the managing director of Way to Add India Pvt Ltd, was arrested on charges relating toa  scheme in which he promised investors 26% interest per month for 3 months. Investors were also promised a bonus of 2% for enrolling new members. The scheme defrauded 2,000 investors. 

South Africa

Johann Steynberg passed away in Brazil while under house arrest. Steynberg ran a bitcoin scheme through Mirror Trading International.

Craig Warriner, 60, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and was banned from BHI Trust for 30 years on account of his running a Ponzi scheme in which about 2,000 investors lost over R1.2 billion.

Russia

Lilia Nuriyeva was sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection with the Finiko Ponzi scheme. The company’s co-founder, Kirill Doronin, is still awaiting trial. The scheme caused an estimated $1.1 billion in losses. The scheme promised returns from cryptocurrency and stock trading. 

Zimbabwe

Shamiso Fred was arrested on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme through African Business Women Association. Investors were required to pay an agreed amount to fund business projects running for up to 48 months, but ABWA failed to pay out monthly profits.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

April 2024 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for April 2024. There were at least 13 new Ponzi schemes revealed this month. Ponzi schemers received more than 25 years of prison sentences. The average age of the fraudsters was about 52 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Michael Philip Atkins, 51, was sentenced to 3 years and 3 months in connection with a foreign exchange trading scheme that involved more than $18 million. The scheme defrauded 1,300 investors and was run through Singapore-based Aureus Capital. Atkins was extradited to Singapore last month.

Patrick Churchville, of Rhode Island, and his investment advisory firm, ClearPath Wealth Management LLC, had a final judgment and permanent injunction entered against them in the SEC action alleging they were running a Ponzi scheme. The scheme involved at least $27 million of losses.

Irina Dilkinska, 42, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $111 million for her role as the head of legal and compliance in the $4 billion OneCoin scheme. Dilkinska had pleaded guilty last year. The co-founder of the scheme, Karl Sebastian Greenwood, was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year.  The other co-founder, Ruja Ignatova, remains at large. Former OneCoin attorney Mark Scott was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Charles Todd Hill, 58, of California, was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay almost $9.5 million in restitution in connection with a real estate scheme that defrauded 11 victims. Hill is a former HGTV star from “Flip It to Win It.” Instead of using money to remodel homes, he spent it on luxury cars, vacations, and partying.

Zachary Horwitz had a final judgment entered against him in favor of the SEC in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through 1inMM Capital LLC that raised over $690 million. Horwitz had promised returns from the supposed sale of movie rights to HBO and Netflix, although no such sales actually took place.

Jebara Igbara aka Jay Mazini, 28, an Instagram influencer, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme involving cryptocurrency.  Igbara’s scheme targeted the Muslim community in New York through his company called Halal Capital LLC.

Timothy France Johnson, 61, of Texas, was indicted on charges that he operated a $3 million Ponzi scheme through his companies, BOLO Entertainment LLC, BOLO Sports LLC and Shoot N’2 Sports LLC. Johnson promised investors their funds would be used to promote pre-season NBA games.

Adrian Kawuba, 34, of Massachusetts, was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in prison and ordered to pay $625,000 in restitution in connection with an African Sports Ponzi scheme. Kawuba promised returns from investments in short term financing of youth sports venture in Africa. The scheme involved 26 fraudulent deals with over $2.2 million in funds. 

Douglas Lien, 82, of New Mexico, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $5 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme through Westend Investments. The scheme took in $14.2 million from 45 investors.

Eshaq M. Nawabi was ordered to pay $9 million in a CFTC action that alleged that Nawabi and his companies Nawabi Enterprise and Hyperion Consulting Inc. were running a fraudulent scheme promising profits of between 8% and 25% per month from foreign exchange trading.

Darren Robinson, 54, and his firm, The QYU Holdings Inc., were ordered to pay penalties in the amount of $11.8 million in connection with a Ponzi-like foreign exchange scheme. QYU claimed the fund did not have a single losing month and investors were promised guaranteed returns. They claimed that the firm was only paid on trading profits, not investor principal. Robinson misappropriated the investors’ funds and deposited them into an account he controlled. He used the funds to pay personal expenses, including luxury cruises, airfare, luxury vehicle purchases, real property purchases, credit cards payments, and other daily living expenses.

Ricky Southers was sued by New Hampshire state attorney general on allegations that his company Southers Construction was running a Ponzi scheme that involved $500,000. Southers relied on new customer deposits to finance new projects.

Martin Sumichrast settled SEC charges against him in connection with the Ponzi scheme run by Rick Siskey through Stone Street Partners. Siskey had been accused of orchestrating a $50 million Ponzi scheme, and he killed himself in 2016. Sumichrast agreed to pay $22,5000 to settle SEC charges against him. 

April Waidman aka April Simon aka April Marie is accused of running a puppy Ponzi scheme. Waidman sold the same puppies to multiple buyers. She operates using the names Simon Doxies, Simon Bulldogs, and April Doxies.

Michael Wayne Williams, 48, of Florida, was sentenced to one year and one day in connection with a scheme run through Highguard Capital and its affiliated entities, Guardian Opportunity Fund and Guardian Opportunity Management. Williams took $3.6 million from investors but used the money for unauthorized purposes, including to settle civil lawsuits accusing him of fraud and to repay investors from discontinued funds that he previously managed.

Marley Wynter ran House of Sport in what is alleged to be a poker Ponzi scheme. Wynter has disappeared, and $40 million in returns are owing.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Canada

Craig Michael Thompson and his companies, Black Box Management Corp. and Invader Management Ltd. were accused of running a $150 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded approximately 1,000 investors.

Curtis Gordon Quigley, 56, and Kathleen Treadgold, 56 turned themselves in after being charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Group Venture Inc. They offered securities in the form of promissory notes and guaranteed investors returns from the flipping of real property.

Cherie Evangeline White and her company, KingdomINvestments2015 Inc. were fined by authorities based upon findings that they were operating a real estate Ponzi scheme that promised returns of 10% to 30% and lost $776,000 of investor funds. White represented that the funds would help house people who faced barriers to housing because of the purchase, improvement, and sale of properties at a profit.

Europe

In a joint enforcement effort involving 400 law enforcement officers across 11 countries, 9 suspects were arrested in the JuicyFields investment scheme. The scheme allegedly laundered profits totaling $692.2 million and involved medical marijuana. There were approximately 550,000 participants worldwide who had to invest at least 50 euros in this e-growing opportunity that promised returns of at least 100%, and up to 168%, annually. JuicyFields advertised on social media and promised returns from investment in cannabis cultivation for medicinal purposes. Spanish authorities called the investigation “Operation Stoner.”

Hong Kong

Authorities issues a securities fraud warning against ProCap, which offered rates of return of 6% to 42% per month. The scheme involved in prediction games, together with other benefits including referral incentives.

India

Amber Dalal, 59, was accused of operating a Ponzi scheme through Dalal’s Ritz Consultancy Services. He promised monthly returns of 1.5% to 1.8% and told investors that he invested their money in risk-free markets, including commodities. The scheme involved over 600 investors and approximately $46.7 million. Dalal defrauded many investors in the U.S.

Vinod Khute is wanted on allegations that he is running a Ponzi scheme through VIPS Group of Companies and Global Affiliate Business. Khute is believed to be the mastermind of the crypto exchange, wallet services, and foreign exchange trading through M/s Kana Capital Limited. Khute established the following companies to run the scheme: VIPSWALLET Pvt Ltd, VIPSTRADE Finance Private Limited, Kana Capitals Limited, Global Affiliate Business (GAB), VIPS Securities, and VIPS Properties.

Monica Tuli was arrested in connection with an alleged scheme run through Nature Heights Infra Limited that she ran with Neeraj Arora and Gaurav Chhabra. The scheme involved real estate and promised investors that they could double their money.

Muniraju GV was arrested on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme through Akshay Fortune Developers.

Assets of Methuku Ravinder and his family were attached in connection with a scheme that defrauded more than 10,000 people. The scheme was run through Sun Pariwar Group of companies, including Methuku Chit Fund Pvt. Ltd, Methuku Ventures Ltd., Metsun Nidhi Ltd., Methuku Herbal Limited, and Methuku Medical and Herbal Foundation. Ravinder promised returns of up to 100% per year.

Raj Kundra had his assets seized in connection an alleged Bitcoin Ponzi scheme.

Namibia

Coenraad Botha, 69, and his Zimbabwean wife Charlotte Murove, 32, were arrested in connection with a cryptocurrency scheme involving $8.5 million, through CBI Exchange Namibia (Pty) Ltd aka CBI Global fka Uhuru Tribe or Uhuru Cash.

South Africa

Authorities froze the bank account of Piggy Farm Trading (Pty) Ltd. based on allegations that it ran a Ponzi scheme in which individuals could purchase up to 50 virtual pigs. The scheme involved a digital “Metaverse Piggy Farm” where the investments were supposedly risk-free because ‘dead’ pigs would be substituted with another one. Investors purchased a virtual prig for R2750 each and would be paid R550 per month for 12 months, and after 12 months, the pig would be returned to Piggy Farm Trading. The scheme promised returns of 140%. The scheme was run by Mthokozisi, Sphamandla and Siyabonga Ngcobo.

Johann Steynberg died while under house arrest for masterminding the cryptocurrency scheme run through Mirror Trading International.

Taiwan

David Pan was charged along with his company, Ace Exchange, on allegations that he was running a scheme through a cryptocurrency trading platform. Prosecutors allege that there were losses of $10.6 million affecting 162 victims.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

March 2024 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for March 2024. There were at least 12 new Ponzi schemes revealed this month. Ponzi schemers received more than 25 years of prison sentences and 4 guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 47 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Will Allen, 36, and Susan Daub, 54, were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through multiple companies under the name Capital Finance. The scheme involved $31 million, about 40 investors, and ran from 2012 to 2015, promising returns of up to 18%. Allen is a former Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and New England Patriots cornerback.

David Brend, 49, and Gustavo Rodriguez, 47, were convicted in connection with a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme run through IcomTech. Icomtech was launched in 2018 by David Carmona, who guaranteed up to 2.8% daily profits from cryptocurrency trading and mining. Carmona, Marco Ruiz-Ochoa, and Juan Arellano have all previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Joseph Carvajales had a consent order entered against him in the CFTC case against both him and The W Group (WTG). Carvajales is required to pay $2.4 million in restitution and pay a $1 million civil penalty. The scheme operated from 2013 to 2020 and promised profits of up to 4% from a commodity trading algorithm. Larry Ramos Mendoza had a default order entered against him, resulting in restitution and penalties of more than $29 million. 

Jason Cloth, of Illinois, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme in a class action filed by 100 victims. The complaint alleges that the victims have lost $88 million. Cloth is a Canadian producer who allegedly ran a Ponzi-style investment scheme that exploited investors’ unfamiliarity with movie financing. A class action was filed identifying ventures affiliated with Cloth, including BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance Corp. and C2 Motion Picture Group. Cloth was also involved with a Canadian entity known as Crystal Wealth operated by Clayton Smith

Vincent Dispoto Jr., 66, of New Jersey, was charged in connection with an alleged $5 million Ponzi scheme. The scheme was run through Liberty Mortgage Services and allegedly defrauded at least 30 victims. Dispoto falsely promised to invest funds in low-risk products with guaranteed returns, such as municipal bonds and certificates of deposit.

Thomas Huling, 60, of Rhode Island, was sentenced to 8 years in prison and ordered to pay about $11 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme that he ran from 2008 to 2018. Huling promised returns from investment projects that included high-yielding bond trading platforms, a car emissions reduction technology, and an online advertising and marketing company. Instead of investing the money as promised, Huling spent it on a lavish lifestyle, including golf fees, travel, and gambling.

Siddharth Jawahar, 36, of Texas, was indicted in connection with an alleged $36 million Ponzi scheme run through Swiftarc Capital. Jawahar invested the funds in Philip Morris Pakistan. The Texas State Securities Board had issued an order revoking Swiftarc’s registration, but Jawahar failed to advise his investors of the revocation.

Samuel J. Mancini, 57, was sentenced to 5 years and 11 months in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme in which he lured in $10.4 million from investors. Mancini ran the scheme through Outdoor Capital Partners LLC, a purported venture capital and private equity firm. That company was the managing director of OCP Italia Fund LLC, a private investment fund. Mancini promised investors returns of approximately 70% of Outdoor Capital’s operating profits. Mancini had previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Shane Doovan Moore, 36, of Washington, was arrested on charges that he operated a Ponzi scheme through Quantum Donovan LLC. Moore claimed he was purchasing and operating cryptocurrency mining equipment and that investors would receive 1% of their investment daily. 

Regine Norman aka Regine Ellis, 69, of New York, was sentenced to 3½ to 7 years in prison and ordered to pay $842,000 in restitution in connection with a real estate Ponzi scheme involving almost $1 million. Norman represented that investor funds would be used to purchase discounted properties at a private auction, but no properties were ever purchased.

Long Nguyen, 35, of California. was sentenced to 2½ years in prison and ordered to pay about $1.5 million in restitution for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 20 people. Nguyen had pleaded guilty last year to operating the scheme and making false statements to investors. He represented that he was a billionaire, that he had access to pre-IPO investment opportunities, and that he managed a real estate investment trust that would provide monthly income.

Gabriel Ochoa, Dulce Ochoa, Maria Saravia, Gloria Castaneda, Ismael Zarco Sanchez, Roberto Zavala, Gabriel Arguelles, Hector Aquino, Orlin Wilifredo Turcios Castro, Carmen De La Cruz, Elizabeth Escoto, Reyna Guiffaro, Marco Antonio Lemus, Juan Puac, Luis Serrano, Julio Taffinder, and Claudia Velazquez were charged in connection with a scheme run through CryptoFX LLC. The scheme promised returns of 15% to 100% and raised $300 million from investors from over 40,000 victims. The SEC charged the firm's main operators, Mauricio Chavez and Giorgio Benvenuto, in 2022. The scheme targeted the Latino community.

Pathyam Patel aka Pat Patel, 23, was arrested in Alabama on charges relating to his sale of over $4,000,000 in investment contracts through Infinity Wealth Management, an investment advisory firm. Patel guaranteed no loss to the investors’ principal investment but did not invest the funds as promised.

Joshua Pukini and Ryan Young of California are being investigated and had their homes searched in connection with an investigation of an alleged Ponzi scheme run through AB Capital. An investor alleges that over $100 million was involved in the scheme that offered first and second deeds of trust on real property.

Nicholas Salzano, 65, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme run through National Realty Investment Advisors LLC that defrauded 2,000 investors out of $658 million. 

Frantz Simeon was sentenced to 2 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through First Black Enterprises Inc. that targeted the Haitian-American community in New York. Simeon raised over $350,000 based on promises that the investment was risk-free and would generate 10% monthly returns.

Joel Wittels, 57, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired with Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein, in connection with a $35 million scheme run through Optimus Investments Inc. and Tyron Management Group LLC. Weinstein had previously been convicted and sentenced in connection with a $240 million Ponzi scheme. Wittels hid Weinstein’s prior conviction and misused investor funds. Christopher Anderson, 47, Richard Curry, 36, and Alaa Hattab, 35, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and are awaiting sentencing. Charges are still pending against Weinstein, Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg, and Shlomo Erez.

Trent Witteveen, 39, of Michigan, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through the timber harvesting business in the names of Titan Timber and Titans Timber LLC. Witteveen promised returns if investors provided investment capital to purchase timber harvesting rights from landowners. In most cases, no contracts for timber harvesting existed.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Argentina

Joao Felipe Costa aka Antonio Inacio Da Silva Neto, and Fabrica Farias Campos, a Brazilian couple, were arrested in Argentina in connection with a $400 million cryptocurrency scheme run through Braiscompany. The couple will be extradited to Brazil.

Australia

David Sipina pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the scheme run through the Courtenay House group of companies. Authorities have alleged that the scheme involved approximately 585 investors and $180 million. Former Courtenay House director Tony Iervasi pled guilty in 2022.

Jack Endersby, 24, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that took in approximately $2 million from victims. Endersby promised monthly returns of 3%.

Canada

Sylvain Bélair was charged on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme through Cosmodome. The scheme involved at least 47 investors who invested about $2 million. Patrick Boisvert has also been charged in connection with the scheme.

Chile

Alberto Change Rajii, 50, was charged in Malta on a theft crime, renewing hope among defrauded victims in an alleged Ponzi scheme run by Rajii in Chile that he will be deported from Malta to face charges in Chile. The scheme in Chile allegedly defrauded victims out of over $80 million and was run through his supposed international private equity and venture capital firm called Grupo Arcano. Rajii’s investment firm Onix promised returns as high as 1.5% per month.

England

Michael Stanley, 67, pleaded guilty to charged that was running a horse-betting syndicate known as Layezy Racing Syndicate as a Ponzi scheme. The scheme promised its 6,000 members risk-free racehorse ownership. Approximately £44 million was paid into the scheme. Stanley claimed that his system gave him an 8.17% advantage in the betting markets,

India

B Vijayaragavan, 43, was arrested as part of an investigation into the alleged Ponzi scheme run by MyV3 Media Private Limited.

Vinod Khute was accused of running a Ponzi scheme involving foreign exchange trading through VIPS Group of Companies and Global Affiliate Business Company

Ambar Dalal was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Ritz Consultancy Services Company. Dalal promised 2% returns per month and defrauded over 1,000 investors.

South Africa

Prishanta Roshan Sewpaul, 27, was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run with Letishya Nicolette Moses, 33. They promised returns from bulk fuel sales. Moses was employed as a logistics manager for a company supplying fuel oil to ships.

Uganda

Mr Tinyefuza, 33, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. Tinyefuza is a real estate dealer who persuaded investors to register on an application called USwind.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

February 2024 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for February 2024. There were at least 6 new Ponzi schemes revealed this month. Ponzi schemers received more than 134 years of prison sentences and 4 guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 53 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Vladimir Artamonov was accused of running a $2.9 million Ponzi scheme and his investment program run through Project Information Arbitrage fund was shut down. Artamonov is a Harvard MBA graduate and he used alumni network to defraud at least 29 people. He projected returns of 500% to 1,000% by claiming to be able to identify investments Berkshire Hathaway would make ahead of the market from public state insurance files.

John Feloni, 64, and his company, Stock Squirrel, Inc., had judgments entered against them in a case brought by the SEC. They were ordered to pay over $2 million in disgorgement. The scheme defrauded approximately 180 investors out of almost $2.5 million by promising them returns from the development of a smartphone application offering financial services to the youth sector.

Gary L. Gauthier, 74, of Florida, was sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme he ran with David Dreslin. The scheme defrauded about 40 investors out of $6 million. Gauthier was the former host of the Christian radio show “It’s God Money.”

Rafael Alberto Vargas Gonzalez aka Rafael Vargas, 42, was barred from the securities industry by the SEC in connection with a fraudulent scheme run through Empirex Capital LLC. The SEC had alleged that Gonzalez raised at least $6.6 million from at least 162 investors and promised returns from crypto assets as well as from stocks and bonds. The money was not used for that purpose and Gonzalez misappropriated about $1.8 million. The scheme ran from 2018 through 2023.

Rodney “Rocket” Grubbs of Indianna was accused of running a Ponzi scheme through his company, Pickleball Rocks. Grubbs held himself out as “pickleball’s ultimate ambassador.” He offered investment opportunities in his company that promoted tournaments, equipment, and clothing in the pickleball industry. About 140 investors invested several million dollars, and they were promised guaranteed returns of 12%.

Alan John Hanke, 50, was charged in New Yok on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme through IOLO Capital. Hanke promised investors high returns within short periods of time by investing in, among other things, “standby letters of credit,” “medium term notes,” and “high yield bonds.” Hanke filed bankruptcy in 2021, but did not disclose the millions of dollars from investors.

Ronald Walter Hannes, of Washington, was sentenced to 5 years of probation after pleading guilty to operating a Ponzi scheme and defrauding investors out of more than $3 million. Hannes ran the scheme through Hannes Financial Services, Inc. and defrauded at least 21 investors. Investors thought they were investing in “high rate, tax free” bond investments and they were provided with fictitious account documents. The scheme ran from 2012 to 2020.

Marlin Hershey, 54, and Dana Bradley, 53, of North Carolina, were sentenced to 21 months and 10 months, respectively. They had pleaded guilty to running a scheme through Performance Holdings through which they offered unregistered securities in Performance Retire on Rentals and Distressed Lending Fund.  They skimmed 10% off the top of some of the investments without telling their clients. 

Xue Samuel Lee, 35, and Brenda Indah Chunga aka “Bitcoin Beautee”, 43, were charged by the SEC in connection with the fraudulent scheme run through HyperFund. The SEC alleged that for almost two years, Lee conducted a $1.7 billion Ponzi scheme. The scheme was first launched through HyperCapital and then 6 months later was relaunched as HyperFund. It was known as HyperNation at the time of its collapse in 2022. Investors were promised daily returns of 0.5% to 1% of the value of their investment until they earned triple the value of their investment. The scheme was also alleged to be a pyramid scheme. Criminal charges have also been brought against Lee, Chunga and Rodney Burton aka Bitcoin Rodney, 54.

Kumar Arun Neppalli, 57, of North Carolina, was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months in prison and ordered to pay almost $1 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme. Neppalli targeted the Indian American community in an affinity fraud and promised them returns from real estate investments. He misrepresented that he had insider knowledge of development plans in the town of Chapel Hill due to his employment in the city and that he needed money within a short time frame, somedays the same day, to facilitate closing a transaction. 

Christopher John Pettit, 56, of Texas, was sentenced to 50 years in prison in connection with a $65 million Ponzi scheme that he ran through his law firm, Chris Pettit and Associates, PC. Pettit ran the scheme for more than 20 years, falsely promising to provide various legal and financial services. Pettit opened trustee accounts with client funds and redirected the funds to his personal account. He also deceived clients into investing in high-yield bonds but instead diverted the funds to his personal account. He further misrepresented that he was a qualified intermediary for real estate exchanges, taking in millions of dollars.

Carl R. Ruderman, 82, of Florida, the former chair of 1 Global Capital LLC, was sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with the $250 million Ponzi scheme. Ruderman raised about $330 million for the scheme. Co-conspirators who have previously pleaded guilty are Alan Heide, 65, Jan Atlas, 78, Steven Allen Schwartz, 78, and Andrew Ledbetter, 81. 1 Global promised returns from pay day loans to small businesses at high interest rates.

Thomas Nicholas Salzano, 65, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to running a $658 million real estate Ponzi scheme through National Realty Investment Advisors LLC. The scheme defrauded more than 2,000 investors. Salzano was the “shadow CEO” to conceal his history of fraud from investors, and Rey E. Grabato II was the CEO. Investors placed the funds into NRIA Partners Portfolio Fund I LLC.

Brian Simms, 46, of Indiana, pleaded guilty to a Ponzi-like scheme run through Brendanwood Financial Brokerage LLC. The scheme brought in almost $4 million. He is a licensed insurance broker, but not licensed to sell securities. He persuaded 20 people to liquidate their 401ks, annuities, and similar accounts and give their funds to him to invest. He falsified documentation to misrepresent that he had invested in legitimate investments. Simms agreed to pay more than $2.62 million in restitution to the victims.

Peter J. Strauss, 45, of South Carolina, pleaded guilty to his role in connection with the DC Solar Ponzi scheme run by Jeff and Paulette Carpoff. Strauss admitted that he knowingly aided and abetted the transfer of funds from Carpoff. Strauss was an attorney, a captive insurance promoter, and founder of Strauss Global, an advisory services firm.

Phillip Wasserman, 67, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a Ponzi scheme case in which a jury found him guilty of fraud charges. Wasserman is a former lawyer and licensed insurance agent who solicited elderly investors to put their money into a new insurance venture called FastLife. Wasserman ran the scheme with Kenneth Rossman. Wasserman called himself the Annuity King.

Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein aka Mike Konig, 48, and Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg, 49, were charged in New Jersey in connection with an alleged fraudulent scheme run through Optimus Investments Inc. and Tyron Management Group LLC. The scheme promised returns from supposed access to deals involving scarce medical supplies, baby formula, and first-aid kits destined for Ukraine. Christopher Anderson, 47, Richard Curry, 36, and Alaa Mohamed Hattab, 35, previously pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme, and Joel Wittels and Shlomo Erez still have criminal charges pending against them. Weinstein’s previous 24-year prison sentenced was commuted by the then President following his conviction in connection with a $230 million real estate Ponzi scheme. The Optimus Investment scheme was started soon after Weinstein was released from prison, using the fake name Mike Konig so investors would not know of Weinstein’s involvement.

Robert Wisnicki, 45, was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in connection with an $18.8 million Ponzi scheme he ran through Wisnicki & Associates LLP and Wisnicki Neuhaser LLP. He persuaded investors to invest in real estate opportunities. Wisnicki used funds from the Wisnicki firms’ clients who did not participate in the real estate investments, which were held in trust in the firms’ IOLA accounts and transferred those funds to the investors to conceal the losses to their investments. 

John J. Woods, 59, of Georgia, was sentenced to nearly 8 years in prison in connection with a $110 million Ponzi scheme run through companies Horizon Private Equity III LLC and Livingston Group Asset Management Company, doing business as Southport Capital. Woods pleaded guilty to the scheme that was run from 2008 through 2021 and lost about $50 million of investors’ funds. More than 400 people were promised returns of 6% to 7% and lost their investments.

Edward Anthony Zimbardi, of Georgia, is under investigation in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that involved cryptocurrency and promised 25% monthly returns. California and Canadian authorities have separately taken action. Zimbardi is a convicted felon and is the owner CryptoProgram, which collapsed in 2023.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Canada

Colin Murphy, 27, was sentenced to 5 months in jail for his refusal to turn over evidence relating to the Ponzi scheme run by Aiden Pleterski, 25, known as the Crypto King. Murphy refused to turnover an iPhone and hid it in a toilet caddy during a court-ordered search.

Charges were filed against Michael Ongun Gokturk and his companies, Einstein Exchange Inc., Einstein Capital Ltd., and Einstein Law Corporation (which was not a law firm). The scheme involved a supposed crypto trading platform providing sale and secure storage for user’s money and crypto assets. In reality, Gokturn transferred the deposits into his personal crypto wallet. At one point, the companies held more than $34 million in cash and crypto assets.

Charges were filed against Gary Lee Rathbun, a former radio host, on allegations that he was running a $72 million Ponzi scheme. Rathbun and his business partner, Doug Miller, lured in investors to invest into private companies associated with Northwest Capital. Approximately $25.5 million was invested by 187 clients into the related businesses. 

England

John Neil Hirst, 60, was charged with conspiracy to defraud in connection with an alleged £10 million Ponzi scheme that targeted British expatriates living in Mallorca. 

Guy Flintham, 46, confessed to a £19 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded 240 investors. 

Michael Thomson, the former chief executive of London Capital & Finance, is on trial on allegations that he ran a Ponzi scheme that collapsed in 2019. The scheme involved about 12,000 elderly investors and brough in nearly £240 million. Much of the money was used by Thomson on racehorses, luxury watches, and shotguns.

Iran

At least one person was arrested in connection with a scheme run through Kourosh Company that defrauded people out of approximately $35 million from cheap iPhones following a ban on them in Iran. The government’s ban on the registration of new iPhones created a black market for new phones in which customers have paid exorbitant prices, in some instances almost 3 times the market price for the phone. Kourosh called itself Iran’s “largest phone repair company” and promised to sell iPhones at a discounted price on the condition that it would deliver the phones in a few weeks. The main suspect, Amirhossein Sharifian, has fled to Turkey.

Jamaica

Authorities are investigating Warner Jamaica Media Limited as Ponzi scheme that allegedly defrauded 50,000 Jamaicans out of millions of dollars.

Nigeria

Authorities are investigating an alleged Ponzi scheme run by Aderemi Olufemi Adeoye.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

January 2024 Ponzi Scheme Roundu

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for January 2024. At least 6 Ponzi schemes hit the news for the first time this month. There more than 41 years of prison sentences for Ponzi schemers, and 2 guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 48 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Rodney Dean Buckle, 66, of Nevada, was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay $283,000 in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme he ran through Rodd United, Rodd U, and Rodd One. Rodd University was a membership-based social club. Buckle promised investors a 100% return on their investments. He established phony businesses and told clients he would invest their funds for them.

Michael Disman, 40, of Texas, pleaded guilty to charges that he was running a $2.7 million Ponzi scheme. Disman admitted to defrauding at least 17 victims using his companies, Dexter Development and Disman Energy. The scheme involved supposed lucrative land development projects, which in reality were nonexistent.

Gopala Krishan, Manivannan Shanmuga, Sakthivel Palani Gounder, and Nanban Ventures LLC were the subject of a preliminary injunction and asset freeze in a case that the SEC had commenced last October. The defendants allegedly raised more than $89 million from more than 350 investors for investments in purported venture capital funds. 

William Koo Ichioka, 30, a Guam resident, was sentenced to 4 years in prison in California and ordered to pay a $5 million fine in connection with a cryptocurrency scheme run through Ichioka Ventures. Ichioka promised returns of 10% every 30 business days to more than 100 investors. Ichioka owes at least $21 million to investors and $40 million to family members.

Siddharth Jawahar, 36, of Texas, was charged in Missouri in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through his company, Swiftare Capital. Jawahar took in $35 million but only spent $10 million on investments. The scheme is believed to be related to Blockchain Global, an Australian blockchain startup that collapsed, with $58 million in claims. 

Horst Jicha, 64, a German national, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through USI Tech, which held itself out as a European-based cryptocurrency investment platform. Investors were promised profits from purchasing BTC Packages or by earning commissions from referring others to purchase investment packages. Jicha, the CEO of USI Tech, promised investors an average of 1% daily returns. 

Sam Lee aka Xue Lee, 35, an Australia, Brenda “Bitcoin Beutee” Chunga, 43, of Maryland, and Rodney Burton aka Bitcoin Rodney, 54, were charged in connection with an alleged $1.89 billion fraudulent cryptocurrency investment scheme run through HyperVerse. The online investment business used the names HyperFund, HyperCapital, HyperNation, and HyperTech. The scheme involved a non-existent bitcoin mining-based investment company and promised daily rewards of .5% to 1%. Chunga pleaded guilty and admitted to receiving at least $3 million.

Prosper E. Beyond Moore, 27, of Georgia, and his entity, Prosperity Investments & Solutions, LLC, were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged scheme offering unregistered offerings of securities.  The scheme raised more than $1.4 million from over 60 investors, many oof which were members of Moore’s church. Moore represented that Prosperity had an exclusive investing and lending platform that generated up to 50% returns per month.

Ahmet Neidik, 64, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to his role in an off-the-road-tires Ponzi scheme run by John K. Eckerd, Jr., 58, and Jason E. Adkins, 46. The scheme defrauded more than 50 investors out of $50 million. Investors were told that tires would be bought at a steep discount and resold to a buyer at a much higher rate. The defendants rarely bought or sold tires and when they did, they used the same tires for multiple deals.

Kumar Arun Neppalli, 57, of North Carolina, was sentenced to 3 years, 8 months and ordered to pay almost $1 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme that targeted the Indian-American community. Neppalli represented that he had connections to real estate developers in the Orange County area and that he would invest their money in real estate projects.

Marco Ruiz Ochoa, 35, of New Hampshire, was sentenced to 5 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $914,000 for his role in the IcomTech Ponzi scheme. The scheme was founded by David Carmona in 2018, and Ochoa served as the CEO until 2019. Ochoa, Carmona, along with other co-defendants, Juan Arellano Parra, Moses Valdez and David Brend, promised guaranteed returns from cryptocurrency trading and mining. A second company, For-Count, promised victims returns from purchasing crypto-currency-related investment products.

Richard Lee Ramirez, 54, of California was sentenced to 7½ years in prison and ordered to pay about $5.5 million in restitution in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through JMJ Capital Group. Ramirez promised returns of between 10% and 30% from a variety of business ventures, including buying and reselling personal protective equipment, factoring accounts receivable, importing and selling furniture and refurbishing air conditioning units for cruise ships. More than $8.1 million was invested in the scheme that involved at least 34 victims.

Darren Anthony Robinson, 54, of Michigan, was indicted on charges that he operated a Ponzi scheme that stole $100 million from investors. Robinson operated a purported trading firm known as QYU Holdings run out of Panama and Cayman Islands. Robinson is on the run and has not yet been apprehended.

Mark Scott, 54, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection with the OneCoin cryptocurrency scheme. Scott was accused of laundering millions of dollars through OneCoin.

Carl Smith was the subject of a final judgment by the SEC against him in connection with a scheme that raised at least $3.7 million from at least 37 investors. The scheme was run through Nanobeak Biotech Inc. and its former CEO, Jeremy Barbera

Paul Horton Smith Sr., 59, of California pleaded guilty to charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme that lasted nearly 20 years and took $24 million from at least 200 investors. Smith ran the alleged scheme through Northstar Communications LLC, Planning Services Inc., and eGate LLC. Smith represented that Northstar invested in real estate or the stock market but just invested money in a non-interest-bearing checking account,

Nicholas Trimble, of Colorado, was charged in connection with an alleged $3 million Ponzi scheme run as a luxury watch resale operation. Trimble was supposedly buying and selling luxury watches and turning a profit, but the several watches he actually purchased constituted just a small part of the funds he solicited.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Australia

Kenneth Charles Grace was found dead in a motel on the day he was due to be sentenced in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through his investment fund, Goldsky Global Access Fund. Approximately $24 million was invested on promises that he could generate returns of up to 20%.

England

Darryl Evans, 62, was sentenced to 8 years in prison following his conviction in connection with a scheme that he ran as a financial advisor. He told his clients that he was investing in algorithms and high-performing companies.

Estonia approved the extradition of Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turogin, Estonian citizens, to the United States. The two are cryptocurrency entrepreneurs who ran a $575 million Ponzi scheme through HashFlare and Polybius Bank. 

Guam

Julien Abat Weymouth, 21, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison in connection with a scheme that involved the exchanging and transferring of cryptocurrency. Assets worth about $13 million, mostly in bitcoin, were seized.

India

Nikhil Mahajan, 39, was arrested in connection with a scheme run through Singapore-based Variable Tech. The scheme brought in 40 bitcoins and was run with Ajay Bhardwaj.

Philippines

Authorities flagged the following investment programs as potential Ponzi schemes: House of Forex / H. Flores Business Consultancy Services; Foto Trading International; HarvestCTMall; Crypace Limited/Crypace Financial Consultancy Services; DNKC Corp.; Gainz Philippines; S&M Ventures and Salon de Alexis.

Authorities warned against investing in The Tipsy Tavern, a bar and events-themed Ponzi scheme. The company is operated by Danielle Lance Alarcon, and investors were promised 120% per year.

Netherlands

A 23-year-old student in Hengelo was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded over 100 victims out of millions of euros in connection with a cryptocurrency scheme. He promised returns of up to 50% from his crypto bank. 

Taiwan

David Pan was arrested in connection with his involvement in an alleged cryptocurrency scam found through ACE Exchange. The trading platform is controlled by Michael C.H. Wang. Fourteen people were arrested in total in connection with the scheme, including Spencer Lin who was sentenced to 8 years in prison last year but just arrested. The losses are estimated to exceed $32 million.

Turkey

Kivanç Talu and his wife Beril Talu were arrested at the airport on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme that involved 150 million Turkish Liras ($5.1 million). They promised returns of one and a half times within 40 days through a venture that involved creating advertising films for major corporations.

Zimbabwe

E-creator, a global e-commerce company, was exposed as a Ponzi scheme that lured investors with promises of high returns. Masterminds Thomas and Zhao used sim boxes with sim cards to manage transactions and used cryptocurrency to siphon off funds.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

The 2023 Year-End Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

The Ponzi Scheme Blog tracks Ponzi scheme news reported on new Ponzi schemes, guilty pleas, criminal convictions, prison sentences and other relevant Ponzi scheme news. Every Ponzi scheme cannot be known, as many slip into the night quietly without ever even being reported to criminal or regulatory authorities, and many simply don’t make the news. As such, it is impossible to capture all of the news.

The unofficial tally of Ponzi scheme news in 2023, even knowing it is incomplete, is itself troubling in its scope. 

At least 115 new Ponzi schemes were reported in the news in 2023

Well over $4.5 billion was lost by victims in Ponzi schemes (49 of the 115 new schemes did not report dollar figures, so the actual number might well be double that amount, or more)

At least 32 people pleaded guilty to running Ponzi schemes

At least 7 were convicted following criminal trial

The average age of the Ponzi schemer is about 49 years old (mid-life crisis?)

All of this is a reminder to stay on high alert and conduct independently verifiable due diligence before investing. For sample questions to ask and due diligence ideas, check out Ponzi-Proof Your Investments: An Investor’s Guide to Avoid Investing in Ponzi Schemes and Other Financial Scams.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

December 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for December 2023. Eleven Ponzi schemes hit the news for the first time this month. There were 3 life sentences imposed along with more than 37 years of prison sentences for Ponzi schemers, and 2 guilty pleas were entered. The average age of the fraudsters was about 46 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Henry Abdo, 46, and Florida-based Titanium Capital LLC were charged by the SEC with operating a Ponzi scheme that raised at least $5.3 million. Carol Ann Barsh was also sued for her role in soliciting investors, and Abdo’s wife, Ganna Migulina, and relative Elias Abdo, were also named in the complaint. They misrepresented that funds would be invested in a “Multi Currency Investment Fund” backed by a proprietary currency exchange. They claimed that the investment had never lost money and generated up to 10% compounded interest for a five-year investment. Abdo was also criminally charged and has pleaded not guilty.

Alexandria Porter Bovee aka Aia Montgomer aka Alexandria Jo-Marie Porter, 37, of Nevada, was barred by FINRA due to her ties to Integrated National Resources dba WeedGenics, a cannabis company that was operating a Ponzi scheme. Bovee was named as a relief defendant in the SEC’s case against WeedGenics and its operators Rolf Max Hirschmann aka Max Bergmann, 52, and Patrick Earl Williams, 34. The scheme raised about $61.7 million from about 350 investors.

Stephen Burton, 58, pleaded not guilty to running an alleged Ponzi scheme with James Wellesley, 56, through Bordeaux Cellars. Burton had been extradited to the United States from Morocco and Wellesley remains in extradition proceedings in Britain. The two claimed that they brokered loans to high-net-worth wine collectors and the loans would be backed by wine stored by Bordeaux Cellars. Nearly $100 million was invested in the scheme.

David Carmona, 40, of New York, pleaded guilty to charges relating to his Ponzi scheme known as IcomTech. The scheme involved a cryptocurrency scam the involved purported mining and trading. Marco Ruiz Ochoa, 35, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Other co-defendants are Juan Arellano, Moses Valdez, David Brend, and Gustavo Rodriguez.

Maria Dulce Pino Dickerson aka Dulce Pino was sued by dozens of investors accusing her of running a Ponzi scheme through Creative Legal Fundings.  Dickerson promised 10% returns from investments in law activities.  The scheme targeted the Filipino community. Dickerson is also part of an IRS criminal investigation.

Tochukwu Abel Edeh, 33, of Nigeria, was sentenced to 3½ years in prison and ordered to pay over $2.5 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme involving both a used car dealership and cryptocurrency located in Nigeria. Edeh laundered the funds along with co-conspirators, though the U.S. Charles Ochi was previously sentenced to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to the scheme. 

Diana Mae Fernandez, 37, was charged by the SEC on allegations that she was running a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. Fernandez is a self-described “entrepreneur” and promised guaranteed returns as high as 63% from what she represented were investments in cryptocurrency, private and publicly traded companies, and luxury real estate. She raised about $364,000 from at least 20 investors through her entities The Self-Made Success and Diana Mae K, LLC. Fernandez did not invest the funds as promised but used them to pay for her living expenses, a lavish lifestyle, and to make Ponzi payments to earlier investors. She told investors she had more than 15 years of investing experience and had raised $100 million in 25 countries. Fernandez had been criminally charged earlier this year.

Horst Jicha, 64, a German national, was arrested on charges that he masterminded a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme run through USI-Tech, which is short for United Software Intelligence. The company was purportedly incorporated in the United Arab Emirates and claimed to make “cryptocurrency mining and trading accessible to the average retail investor through its online platform.” The scheme promised 140% returns over 140 days. Jiha had $94 million worth of Bitcoin under his control at the time of his indictment.

Adrian Kawuba, 33, of Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a scheme in which he promised returns from investments in short-term financing of sports ventures in Africa. The scheme involved at least $2.3 million in investor funds. 

Josh Link, 30, of Arizona, Jed Wood, 62, of Texas, and their company, Agridime LLC, were sued by the SEC which obtained an asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver. The SEC alleged that Agridime, which claims to specialize in meat sales, distribution, and animal supply chain management, was engaged in a Ponzi scheme. The defendants promised returns of 15% to 32% from raising cattle and raised at least $191 million for more than 2,100 investors. On its website, Agridime states the company "is an online cattle and agricultural products brokerage company that utilizes a proprietary trading platform to connect buyers and sellers."

Motty Mizrahi, 51, of California, was sentenced to 9 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 40 investors out of $6 million. Mizrahi’s brother, Sassi Misrahi, 58, was convicted earlier in the year, sentenced to 7 years and 3 months, and ordered to pay $4.4 million in restitution. They ran the scheme through MBIG Company and guaranteed returns of 2% to 3% monthly as well as annual returns of 30% to 102%.

Matthew Piercey, 27, was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison in connection with a $35 million Ponzi scheme run through his companies, Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla. When Piercey’s fraud first came to light, he unsuccessfully attempted to evade the FBI in an underwater submersible.

David Gilbert Saffron aka David Gilbert aka Dave Gabe aka Blue Wizard aka Bitcoin Yoda, 51, of Australia, and Vincent Anthony Mazzotta Jr., 52, of California, were charged on allegations that they were running a crypto Ponzi scheme. More than $25 million was invested and investors were promised profits from trading programs that supposedly used an artificial intelligence automated trading bot. The investment programs operated under various names, including Circle Society, Bitcoin Wealth Management, Omicron Trust, Mind Capital, and Cloud9Capital. Saffron and Mazzotta created a fictitious entity called the Federal Crypto Reserve and solicited investors to pay the Federal Crypto Reserve to investigate and recover their losses in the investment programs. 

Rodolfo Villareal, 52, of California, pleaded not guilty to charges that he stole about $282,000 in an alleged Ponzi scheme. 

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

England

Stephen Rae, 63, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a £2.1 million Ponzi scheme to which he had previously pleaded guilty. The scheme defrauded 16 investors. Rae represented that he was a successful financial advisor and director of Mason Morton Ltd. Instead of investing the money, Rae spent it on himself and his family, living a lavish lifestyle. 

India

Ajeet Maurya, 41, a social influencer, was arrested on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme. Maurya is reported to have 2 wives, 9 children and 6 girlfriends.

Ramendu Chattophyay was taken into custody in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Tower Group.

Simpy Bhardwaj aka Simpy Gaur was arrested on charges that in connection with the bitcoin Ponzi scheme known as Gain Bitcoin Ponzi scheme through Variabletech Pte Ltd. The scheme was run with her husband, Ajay Bharadwaj, and her late brother-in-law, Amit Bharadwaj. The scheme involved over 100,000 investors and promised monthly returns of 10%.

Prince Kumar, the director of Digital Revolution Technologies Limited, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in a Ponzi scheme that that defrauded hundreds of investors by promising false returns from digital products.

Nigeria

Barmise Samson Ajetunmobi and his company, Imagine Global Solution Limited, were charged on allegations that that they were running a Ponzi scheme involving N15 billion. Ajetunmobi pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Philippines

Joel Apolinario, Cristobal R. Baradad, and Joji A. Jusay were sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the Kapa Community Ministry International Inc. Ponzi scheme. Investors were promised 30% monthly returns on their investments. 

Authorities warned the public against investing in Salon De Pamplona which is soliciting investments without required licenses. The investment program is operated by Ramillo Pamplona Pumbaya, and returns were promised of 15% after 30 days.

South Africa

Jacobus Geldenhuis was fined $143 million for running a Ponzi scheme, he was previously barred from selling financial services or acting as an advisor. 

Thailand

Nattasilp Chaiwisit, 48, and his spouse Nattawanon, 41, were held on charges that they allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 73 people out of about 54 million baht.

Turkey

Secil Erzan, a bank manager of a Denisbank AS branch, was accused of orchestrating a $44 million Ponzi scheme. Erzan promised returns of 250%, and authorities alleged that bags of cash were changing hands at candy shops.


Thursday, November 30, 2023

November 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for November 2023. Nine new Ponzi schemes hit the news this month and there were more than 35 years of prison sentences imposed on Ponzi schemers and 4 new guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 43 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Stanislav Bril, 40, aka Stan Bril aka Slava Bril of Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to running a scheme that stole over $6 million of federal pandemic relief. The scheme was run through Mortgage Consultant Group and took in more than $1 million from investors, promising returns from loans on real estate and construction projects. Bril also fraudulently obtained funds from government programs through Mortgage Consultant Group as well as The Bril Group and SAB Services LLC.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis, 37, and Will Bynum, 40. were convicted in connection with a scheme that defrauded an insurance plan for NBA players and their families. Terrence Williams was sentenced in August to 10 years in prison as the ringleader of the scheme.

Maria Dulce Pino Dickerson and her business Creative Legal Services were sued by authorities in California accusing her of running a Ponzi scheme. Dickerson is alleged to have made misrepresentations to investors and targeted the Filipino community.

Irina Dilkinska, 42, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the $4 billion One Coin cryptocurrency scheme. OneCoin mastermind Ruja Ignatova is still at large. Dilkinska helped a lawyer launder more than $400 million through a series of fake Cayman Island investment funds.

Garrett Elder, 30, of Alaska, was accused of running a Ponzi-like scheme that allegedly defrauded at least 177 investors. Elder ran two businesses through Tycoon Trading, LLC and Daily Bread Fund, LLC that brought in $30 to $34 million, of which about $25 million was allegedly lost. 

Anthony Farrer, 35, of California, was charged in connection with a Ponzi-like scheme that he ran through his watch company, Timepiece Gentleman. Farrer told clients he would sell their watches on consignment and keep a commission, but Farrer instead sold the watches and kept the proceeds for himself. Other clients would wire money to purchase watches, and Farrer would send a different timepiece than what they requested. He stole about $3 million from at least 20 victims.

Phillip Galles, 57, of Illinois, and his entities, Tyche Asset Management LLC, Tyche Master Fund Ltd, Tyche Asset Trade LLC, Tyche Offshore Fund Ltd., Tyche Onshore Fund LP, Tyche PML Master Fund Ltd., Tyche PML Onshore Fund LP, Tyche Onshore Fund GP LLC, and Tyche Asset Trade LLC had a judgment entered against them for more than $20 million in favor of the CFTC. The CFTC has sued the defendants earlier this year alleging that they were running a Ponzi scheme that fraudulently solicited funds into a commodity pool. Galles promised returns of more than 200% annually from supposed sophisticated technology and strategies to trade commodity futures and options.  About 65 victims suffered losses totaling more than $5.3 million.

Cedric Griffin, 47, remains on the run following the filing of a complaint by the SEC in May that accused him of defrauding 103 investors out of $5.9 million. Griffin ran the scheme through G8 Equity and G8 RE Capital. The SEC was granted additional time to locate Griffin.

Alaa Mohamed Hattab, 35, pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired with Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein to run a $230 million Ponzi scheme. Two other conspirators, Christopher Anderson, 47, and Richard Curry, 36, previously pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.

John Karony, 27, Kyle Nagy, 35, and Thomas Smith, 35, were arrested on charges that they were running a Ponzi scheme through SafeMoon and the SafeMoon crypto token. The scheme brought in over $8 billion.

Francius Marganda, an Indonesian national, was extradited from Singapore to face charges in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that targeted the Indonesian and Indo-American community. Marganda ran the scheme through Air Travel Ticketing Corp, a discount airline tickets company in New York, as well as MH Lux & Beauty Inc., a purported luxury goods company in California. Two sham programs, called Easy Transfer and Global Transfer, were represented to be short-term, high-interest loan programs, and investors invested more than $23 million with promises of returns as high as 200%.

John A. Masanotti, 40, and his company, Middlesex Mortgage Group, LLC, were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged Ponzi-like scheme. The scheme took in at least $5.9 million and promised returns from a pooled investment fund called the Middlesex Fund or the MMG Fund.

Sassi Mizrahi, 58, of California, was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months and ordered to pay more than $4.4 million in restitution in connection with a $7 million scheme that defrauded at least 40 investors. His brother, Motty Mizrahi, 51, pleaded guilty in January. The Ponzi scheme was run through MBIG Company, targeted the Orthodox Jewish Israeli community, and promised returns of 2% to 3% per month, with annual returns ranging from 30% to 102%. The funds were not invested, however and were placed in the personal trading accounts of Motty Mizrahi. 

Long Nguyen, 35, of California pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 20 people out of about $2 million. Nguyen told people he was a billionaire and that he was creating a hedge fund for investments in companies that had not yet made an initial public offering. He also promised returns from a real estate investment trust that he said he managed. 

Franklin Ray, 52, of Michigan, was sentenced to 17 years and 8 months in connection with a fraudulent scheme involving $40 million and about 275 investors. He ran the scheme through CSA Business Solutions LLC, representing that he had 4,704 trucks and 4,909 drivers when in reality he only had two trucks and four drivers. The investor funds were supposed to be used to purchase over 2,000 trucks. He promised 77% returns over a seven-year period. The scheme was one of four separate fraudulent schemes run by Ray in a two-year period.

Jon Darrell Seawright, 51, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $977,000 in restitution following his guilty plea in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through Alexander Seawright Timber Fund LLC. Seawright ran the scheme with Ted Brent Alexander. They promised returns from the loaning of funds to a timber broker to buy timber rights from landowners and then sell the rights to lumber mills at a higher price. Seawright is a former Baker Donelson partner. 

Craig Sherman, 81, of Florida, was sentenced to two years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme. Sherman promised returns of between 6% and 8% in connection with a real estate Ponzi scheme. The scheme brought in close to $7 million.

Jake Soberal, 39, and Imma Olguin Jr., 42, of California, were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged scheme run through Bitwise Industries, Inc. The scheme raised approximately $70 million from investors. Criminal charges were also filed against Soberal and Olguin in connection with the alleged scheme. They pleaded not guilty to the charges. That they had altered bank statements to inflate the amount of cash that Bitwise had in its account.

Jeffrey H. Tamkin, of California, was indicted on charges that he operated an $8 million Ponzi scheme. Tamkin ran the scheme through Tamkin Development Corporation and the Public Facilities Investment Corporation, promising returns from the development of buildings for public agencies.

Albert Alejandro Tinoco, 27, of Texas, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a $9 million Ponzi scheme. Tinoco claimed he was investing funds into funds dealing with cryptocurrency and foreign exchange markets, but he only invested less than half of a percent of the investors’ funds.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

England

Christopher Hamilton, 64, avoided extradition to the United States in connection with the OneCoin cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. 

Spencer Steinberg, 46, Michael Strubel, 54, and Jolan Saunders, 40, were sentenced to six years, seven years, and seven years, respectively, in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Saunders Electrical Wholesalers Limited. They claimed they had won a contract to supply electrical goods to the Olympic Village ahead of the 2012 London games. About £78 million was put into the scheme by about 91 investors.

India

Sushil Kumar Tudu, the head of Solar Techno Alliance, was arrested for his role in the alleged cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. 

Authorities are investigating an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Universal Trading Solutions.

Authorities busted a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme called “Yes World Crypto Token” aka Crypto CoinSandeep Choudhary, 40, was arrested in connection with the scheme, along with Basant Pradhan and Manoj Patnaik. Choudary was arrested as he was trying to escape from India to Dubai. The amount involved is estimated to be more than Rs. 200 crore.

Prakash Raj was summoned in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme linked to Pranav Jewellers. The scheme promised returns from a gold investment scheme involving 100 crore.

South Africa

Brandon Naicker aka Muruvan Egambaram and Abraham “Jason” Pillay were charged in connection with a scheme run through insurance brokerage firms called Infiniti and Branson Capital. They allegedly defrauded investors out of R2 million.

Thailand 

Suteewan “Baitoey” Thaweesin, 35, was released on bail following her arraignment along with her husband Pattanapon Minthakin aka DJ Man in connection with the Forex-3D Ponzi scheme. Forex 3D claimed to be an online dealer in foreign exchange, but thousands of investors were defrauded out of about 2 billion baht. The scheme was masterminded by Apiruk Kothi, who was arrested in 2021.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for October 2023. While 4 new Ponzi schemes came to light this month, there were more than 49 years of prison sentences imposed on Ponzi schemers and there were 5 guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 54 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Brett Barber, 44, of California, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a $17 million house-flipping Ponzi scheme. Barber ran the scheme through BNZ Capital One which promised returns between 8% and 10% and later through National American Capital after Barber closed BNZ because authorities were investigating. Another owner of BNZ Capital, Louis Zimmerle, 62, also pleaded guilty.

Darrin Blaine, of Indianna, was the subject of a restraining order in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme involving the sale of securities. Blaine, an attorney, alleged took $680,000 from investors through his companies, Laser Tech Investment Club and Akamai Physics Inc. Another company, Porrima Photonix Inc, was also used in connection with the scheme.

Thomas Brenner, 60, of Ohio, was sentenced to 10 years and 5 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution in connection with his role in a $102 million Ponzi scheme run through United RL Capital Services. The scheme defrauded more than 600 investors, and Brenner solicited clients to invest, promising them their money back with interest after 3 years. Brenner previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Jason Dodd Bullard, 59, of Minnesota, was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Bullard Enterprises LLC that defrauded approximately 100 victims out of over $3.1 million. The scheme involved a foreign currency investment program. Angela Romero-Bullard had previously been sued along with Bullard by the SEC in connection with the scheme.

Nayeen Choudhury, 27, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a $9.5 million Ponzi scheme run through his company, Dream Venture Capital Group. Choudry promised high rates of return from supposed investments into trading options, but Choudry instead suffered losses and lost about $5 million in options trading in 2022 and 2023. 

Joseph W. Floyd, IV, 76, of North Carolina, was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution in connection with a $20 million Ponzi scheme run through Floyd’s Insurance Agency. Floyd’s brother, William F. Floyd, Jr., was previously sentenced. The scheme offered returns to 150 investors through a loan program that promised returns of 6% to 19% and represented that is was a safe investment. 

Scott Hughes, 47, Cecilia Millan, 41, and Karina Chairez, 47, were sentenced in connection with the AirBit Club Ponzi scheme after they pleaded guilty. Hughes received an 18-month sentenced for laundering approximately $18 million. Millan received 5 years and Chairex received one year and one day. Co-founder Pablo Renato Rodriquez was sentenced to 12 years in prison last month. Gutemberg Dos Santos, 48, co-cofounder of AirBit Club, also pleaded guilty in connection with the cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. Jackie Aguilar, who pleaded guilty, reportedly passed away a few weeks prior to sentencing. AirBit Club guaranteed daily returns from crypto mining and trading and brought in $100 million of investors’ money.

Jeffrey Ikahn aka Jeff Hill aka Jeffrey Santulan, 41, of California, and Safeguard Metals LLC consented to an order finding them liable for a $68 million scheme that defrauded elderly investors. The scheme involved precious metals in which overpriced silver coins were sold to investors. 

Paul Kimmins Lebo, 41, of Ohio, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and ordered to pay $635,000 in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded about 100 people. Lebo promised equity ownership if they invested in his non-operational hedge fund called Paul Kimmins Investments (PKI), LP and promised that investors that their deposits were fully refundable. He previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Gopala Krishnan aka GK, Manivannan Shanmugam, and Sakthivel Palani Gounder, along with their company, Nanban Ventures LLC, were sued by the SEC on allegations that they were running a $130 million fraudulent scheme. The scheme allegedly targeted the Indian American community and involved more than 350 investors. Investors were promised returns of more than 100% from options trading.

Ari Lauer, 59, of California, was charged in connection with the DC Solar Ponzi scheme. He has already been sued by the SEC on charges that he aided and abetted the Ponzi scheme run by Jeffrey Carpoff, 52, and Paulette Carpoff, 49. They represented that DC Solar made solar powered mobile generators, and over $912 million was paid into the scheme. Lauer is a lawyer who allegedly assisted in creating documents to hide transfers and conceal the fraud. Jeffrey Carpoff was previously sentenced to 30 years in prison, Paulette Carpoff was sentenced to 11 years, 3 months, and Joseph Bayliss, 48, was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Long Nguyen, 35, of California, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 20 people out of almost $2 million. Nguyen falsely claimed he was a billionaire, that he had access to pre-IPO investment opportunities, and that he managed a real estate investment trust.

Darrant Robinson and QYU Holdings Inc. were sued by the CFTC on allegations that they ran a $7.1 million scheme that defrauded at least 30 people into investing in a commodity pool. The CFTC alleges that instead of trading on commodity interests, QYU and Robinson instead deposited the funds into QYU’s corporate bank account and used the money to pay Robinson’s personal expenses including luxury cruises, luxury vehicles, and property purchases. Robinson allegedly created fake trading data and provided false account statements to show consistent profits for the participants. 

Christopher John Pettit, 56, of Texas, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of up to $65 million. Pettit is lawyer who engaged in Ponzi-like conduct by taking money from his clients and persuading them to invest in his firm, Chris Pettit and Associates, PC. Pettit promised returns from his firm which provided services such as estate planning, investments and real estate transactions, but he instead used the funds for his personal benefit. Pettit claimed the funds would be used for trustee accounts, high-percentage bonds and 1031 real estate exchanges. 

Volodimyr Pigida, 49, of Florida, was arrested after failing to appear for his sentencing hearing in connection with a $22 million Ponzi scheme that caused $11 million in losses. Pigida and his wife, Marina Bondarenko, operated a "work-at-home" email scheme named Trend Sound Promoter. Pigida was convicted in 2022. Bondarenko pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 years and two months in prison in 2019.

Cesar Humberto Pina, 45, of New Jersey, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. Pina’s wife, Jennifer Pina, is also accused in connection with the scheme. The scheme promised returns of 20% to 45% from the alleged purchase, remodel, and sale of certain real estate projects. Raashaun Casey aka DJ Envy was Pina’s business partner and hosted real estate seminars with Pina, but has denied any involvement in the alleged fraudulent scheme. DJ Envy is not named in the criminal charges and has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing. Pina owned Whairhouse LLC and FromStart2Flip LLC.

Carl Ruderman, 82, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the 1 Global Capital LLC Ponzi scheme. Ruderman raised about $330 million for the scheme. Co-conspirators who have previously pleaded guilty are Alan Heide, 65, Jan Atlas, 78, Steven Allen Schwartz, 78, and Andrew Ledbetter, 81. 1 Global promised returns from pay day loans to small businesses at high interest rates.

Abner Tinoco, 27, of Texas, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme in which he solicited approximately $9 million into funds dealing with cryptocurrency and foreign exchange markets. 

Michael Wayne Williams, 48, of Florida, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme run through Highguard Capital, Guardian Opportunity Fund, and Guardian Opportunity Management. Over $16 million was invested into the scheme that promised returns from investments in the fund. 

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Canada

April Vuong and Hao Quach were permanently banned from the capital markets in connection with their fraud convictions relating to a $5.2 million Ponzi scheme.

India

R Sivakumar, 57, was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Winstar India City Developers that defrauded 1,686 investors out of 74 crore.

Sangram Keshari Patra was sentenced to three years in prison in connection with a scheme run through Kolkata Weir Industries Ltd

Nigeria

BBH Films Nigeria Limited has been accused of running a Ponzi scheme that may have defrauded over 2.7 million Nigerians. BBH claims to be a Nigerian arm of a U.K.-based company, BBH Global

Philippines

Authorities have flagged 99 Dragons PH as a Ponzi scheme. The scheme promised guaranteed profits of 125% to 200% in 10 to 30 days.

South Africa

Patrick Stapleton, 66, received a 10-year prison sentence for his role in the Ponzi scheme run through his company, Dynamic Group CC. Stapleton and his son, Michael Stapleton, defrauded factor workers by persuading them to invest in “research” about developing an off-road mining vehicle and their paint company, Umbala Paints. Michael previously pleaded guilty and is serving a 5 year sentence.

Uganda

Authorities have received over 80 complaints from victims of the Capital Chicken Ponzi scheme. The fund promised a 15% monthly profit for amounts invested in the chicken business. Key suspects Pius Wamanga and Ernest Sempebwa are believed to have fled the country.