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

Kathy is a senior business trial attorney with more than 25 years experience prosecuting and defending claims for clients involved in Ponzi scheme matters and in bankruptcy proceedings. Kathy’s practice includes recovering assets for clients in complex fraud cases on under standard fee and alternative fee arrangements. Kathy also serves as a mediator in bankruptcy matters, in complex business disputes, and in matters requiring an expert on 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

Monday, August 31, 2015

August 2015 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

    Below is a summary of the activity reported for August 2015. The reported stories reflect: 3 guilty pleas or convictions in pending cases; over 39 years of newly imposed sentences for people involved in Ponzi schemes; at least 3 new Ponzi schemes involving over $143 million; 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. And please remember that I am just relaying what’s in the news, not writing or verifying it.

    Bryan Anderson, 41, was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme to which he had previously pleaded guilty. Anderson defrauded a dozen investors out of more than $3 million. During most of the scheme, Anderson was a registered financial broker working with MetLife Securities and then Pruco Securities.

    Roland Barrera, a bar owner, was ordered to pay a $150,000 penalty for breaking federal regulations when he helped persuade a businessman to invest $3 million in a Ponzi scheme run by Robert Helms and Janniece Kaelin through their company, Vendetta Royalty Partners, Ltd., claiming to have royalties on 2,000 oil and gas wells. The scheme involved as many as 129 investors who invested at least $18 million. Helms and Kaelin were the subject of a summary judgment against them, stripping them of their ability to work in investment industry.

    John R. Burns III, 56, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through USA Retirement Management Services. Burns persuaded investors to invest in bogus Turkish bonds. His scheme was part of a large scheme run with Robert Pribilski, 57, and Mahmt Erhan Durmaz, 45, in which they defrauded 120 investors out of $28 million. Pribilski pleaded guilty last year, and Durmaz fled the U.S. in 2010 and is believed to be residing in Turkey.

    Terina Carney aka Teina Humphrey, 49, pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme in which she stole more than $415,000. Carney ran her scheme through Riverside Lease LLC, and investors were promised returns of 10% to 30%.

    Cristal Clark, 41, was acquitted of charges of running a Ponzi scheme through Cay Clubs, and a mistrial was declared as to her husband, Fred “Dave” Clark. Cay Clubs had sold interests in luxury resorts that were to be developed nationwide, promising returns of 15% to 20%. They had raised more than $300 million from approximately 1,400 investors. An SEC action against the Clarks had previously been dismissed as being untimely. Two others involved with Cay Clubs, Barry Graham and Ricky Lynn Stokes, had previously pleaded guilty and received sentences of 5 years each.

    Carlos Garza and his brother, Josh Garza, were sued by the SEC in connection with GAW Miners. GAW is alleged to have violated securities laws through its sale of Hashlet miners and its cryptocurrency, Paycoin. Last year, GAW moved more toward its “Paybase” system of payments and formed strategic partnerships with Walmart and Amazon.

    Richard M. Higgins, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme through Higgins Capital Management and Higgins Equity Partners. Higgins defrauded investors out of more than $600,000 by assuring them that he was a registered advisor and reporting returns to them of between 18% and 174%. In fact, he experienced losses of between 80% and 91%.

    Irwin Lipkin, 77, was sentenced to 6 months in prison in connection with the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. Lipkin had pleaded guilty to charges relating to the falsification of documents at a time when he was Controller for Madoff’s company. When he left the company, he instructed his successor on how to falsify the records and he also manipulated his own account to retain significant capital gains. Lipkin’s wife also remained on the payroll for many years, even when she was not performing any services.

    James H. Mason, 67, was sentenced to 8 years in prison and ordered to pay $4.3 million in restitution in connection with a $4.7 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 500 investors. The scheme purported to be a foreign exchange investment program.

    Ron Earl McCullough and David Christopher Mayhew had a default judgment entered against them, which provides that they will have to pay $1,223,388.43 in restitution and 42,486,619.87 in civil monetary penalties for operating a foreign exchange Ponzi scheme. McCullough and Mayhew were accused by the CFTC of violating commodities laws in connection with a fraudulent scheme that solicited about $2.3 million from at least 11 victims.

    Steven Palladino, 58, was sentenced to 2 years in prison for violating an asset freeze and other court orders in a civil case brought by the SEC relating to a Ponzi scheme for which he is already serving a 10 to 12 year sentence. Palladino was sentenced last year after pleading guilty to stealing $10 million from investors through his company, Viking Financial Group.

    Wayne Palmer, 60, and his cousin Julieann Palmer Martin, 47, of Utah, were indicted on charges that they ran a Ponzi scheme which defrauded more than 600 investors out of $140 million. They ran the scheme through National Note of Utah, a company that supposedly extended real estate loans, engaged in other real estate activities, operated a mint, and extracted precious metals from mine tailings. The company promised investors consistent returns of 12% per annum.

    Albert Rossini, 67, Babajan Khoshabe, 74, and Anthony Khoshabe, 33, were indicted on allegations that they defrauded at least 15 victims out of $2.9 million. They represented that investors would receive rental income from purchasing purported mortgage notes on apartment buildings in foreclosure, and that they would get title following the foreclosure. Thomas Murray, 61, a licensed Illinois attorney, was also indicted for his alleged role in validating the sale of the mortgage notes through a phone “Guaranty Agreement” that he prepared and gave to Rossini to present to victims. Rossini and Babajan Khoshabe allegedly told prospective investors that Anthony Khoshabe managed the mortgaged properties through his position at Reliant Management, which shared office space with Devon Street Investments Ltd.

    Keith F. Simmons, 50, and Deanna Salazar received one of the largest fines ever handed out by the CFTC. They were fined $76 million for fraudulently soliciting and accepting $40 million from 240 individuals for their off-exchange forex trading program known as Black Diamond. Simmons was sentenced to 40 years in prison and Salazar was sentenced to 4.5 years, and both are currently serving their sentences. The court entered consent orders against Simmons and Salazar and her companies, Life Plus Group LLC and Black Diamond Holdings LLC. Also charged are Bryan Coats and his company, Genesis Wealth Management LLC, and Jonathan Davey, and his companies, Divine Circulation Services LLC, Divine Stewardship LLC, Safe Harbor Ventures Inc., Safe Harbor Wealth Investments Inc., and Safe Harbor Wealth Inc.

    Michael J. Stewart, 68, was convicted in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 647 investors out of $169 million. Stewart represented to investors that he would acquire distressed apartment buildings that he would flip for a profit. Stewart ran the scheme through Pacific Property Assets with John Packard. Pacific Property had filed for bankruptcy in 2009, listing 647 investors. Packard had pleaded guilty in 2014 and testified against Stewart at trial. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in November.

    Frederick Alan Voight, 58, was the subject of an SEC complaint alleging that Voight raised $114 million through his enterprises, DayStar, FAVA, Rhine, Topside, Intercore, and IRC, to fund a Ponzi scheme. Voight claimed that he was using the money to fund research for public companies and he promised up to 42% annual interest. One investment opportunity supposedly funded a technology called “DADS”, a Driver Alertness Detection System that would warn sleepy drivers.

    William Donnelly Yotty, 69, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with his operation of a $16 million Ponzi scheme through companies he operated under the names Global Capital Associates, Inc., Infostar Systems, Inc., Pacific Financial Solutions, Inc., and The Money People, Inc. The schemes defrauded about 240 investors. Yotty offered investments in corporate debt obligations and in distressed real estate, offering investors annual returns as high as 25%. In a separate scheme that he operated under the name Fortuno, Yotty offered victims the opportunity to purchase foreclosed real estate at below-market prices so that they could supposedly flip the properties at two or three time the purchase price.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS

Canada

    Keith Henry Alexander admitted to engaging in the illegal distribution of securities and unregistered trading in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through The Little Loan Shoppe by Doris Nelson. Alexander raised $14 million from 13 investors.

    Milowe Brost, 61, filed an appeal following his conviction for running a $400 million Ponzi scheme along with Gary Sorenson, 71. The scheme defrauded more than 3,000 investors and was run through their company, Syndicated Gold Depository S.A. They formed an agreement to lend money to Merendon Mining, promising a high rate of return. Victims invested in offshore shell companies marketed by Brost's firms, Capital Alternatives Inc. and Institute for Financial Learning Group of Companies Inc. Both men were sentenced to 12 years in prison.

    Christopher Steeves and his brother, Jeremy Steeves, lost an arbitration in which they were ordered to pay about $658,000 for their role in a Ponzi scheme. The brothers received unlawful referral commissions for recruiting investors into Golden Oaks Enterprises, a company owned by J.C. Lacasse. The brothers also received more than 60% annually on their own investments and secured second mortgages on 18 properties owned by Lacasse’s Rent 2 Own Canada.

Cayman

    Brighton SPC Fund was taken over by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority. The fund, believed to be worth $130 million, belonged to Belvedere Group.

China

    Lu Kuan-wei and Chen Yun-fei were arrested in Taiwan in connection with the alleged Ponzi scheme targeting bitcoin users through a company called MyCoin. Investors were convinced to invest 90 bitcoins ($49,600), and they were to receive a return of .63 BTC per day. They were to receive back their principal after 4 1/2 months, which would be an annual return of 255%.

India

    Manoj Kumar Sahu, Pintu Saha, and Adhis Haldar were arrested for alleged involvement in Ponzi scheme activities of MPA Agro Animal Projects.

South Africa

    The Financial Services Board provisionally withdrew the license of Ntinga Health and Financial Services following allegations that Ntinga was running a Ponzi scheme. The company promised guaranteed returns of 98% per year. The FSB identified Armstrong Luthando Mazizi as the individual running Ntinga, as well as Geinisiko Mantashe as a signatory on the company’s bank accounts.

    The Financial Services Board provisionally withdrew the license of a foreign exchange brokerage firm called ACM Gold and Trading for its links to a Ponzi scheme. ACM held short-term investment accounts for Platinum Forex, whose assets were frozen last month. Platinum Forex was run by pastor Colin Davids, who promised returns of up to 84% by trading funds on the forex market.

    Sergey Mavrodi, previously convicted of fraud in Russia, has launched a new online allegedly fraudulent scheme in South Africa. The scheme, called MMM like his predecessor scheme, offers returns of 30% per month. The website contains the following message: “This is the first sprout of something new in the modern soulless and ruthless world of greed and hard cash. The goal here is not the money. The goal is to destroy the world's unjust financial system.” The website also describes the system as a “technical basic program, which helps millions of participants worldwide to find those who need help, and those who are ready to provide help for free.”

NEWSWORTHY LEGAL ISSUES IN PENDING PONZI SCHEME CASES

    The motion of Associated Bank to dismiss the complaint of the receiver of Trevor Cook was denied. The lawsuit alleges that the Bank is liable in connection with Cook’s $194 million scheme. The bank had tried, unsuccessfully, to dismiss the receiver’s suit on in pari delicto and res judicata grounds. Cook had promised risk-free returns to over 700 investors in commodities and futures trading, raising more than $200 million.

    Federal prosecutors have challenged a court order directing them to turnover the tax returns of wealthy investors who were defrauded in the alleged $190 million Ponzi scheme of Ramon DeSage, 64, that he ran through his company, Cadeau Express. DeSage contends that the investors failed to report to the IRS the cash that he paid back to investors. He wants to use the tax returns to attack their credibility. Prosecutors say that the court order “order authorizes a rank fishing expedition that puts the victims' sensitive financial data in the hands of the defendant, effectively victimizing them a second time.”

    Henry J. Haff and Diane M. Lis Haff were not permitted to take an additional $731,000 tax deduction relating to funds they claimed were owing to them from a Ponzi scheme called GSH Development LLC. They argued that the funds were never included in income.

    A settlement was documented in connection with the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme in which Citco Group Ltd. agreed to pay $125 million to settle claims brought by Fairfield Greenwich Ltd., one of the Madoff feeder funds. Fairfield alleged that Citco had failed to properly administer funds that ended up being invested in the Madoff scheme. About 3,000 investors claim an interest through Fairfield.

    California Polytechnic State University has agreed to pay $480,000 to have the name of Al Moriarty removed from a 53-foot advertisement on the scoreboard in the school’s football stadium. Moriarty was previously convicted or running a $22 million Ponzi scheme. Moriarty used his company, Moriarty Enterprises, to solicit investor into his scheme promising 10% returns from a program that provided home loans to educators. Moriarty was known for his philanthropy and had donated $625,000 to Cal Poly in exchange for the advertisement in Cal Poly’s football stadium.

    A court dismissed a lawsuit against GE Capital Corp. that arose from the Tom Petters Ponzi scheme. The trustee of Ark Discovery, a lender to Petters, had sued GE Capital alleging that it had aided and abetted Petters’ fraud.

    FSC Securities Corp. was found liable for $1.28 million in an arbitration brought by investors who were defrauded in the Ponzi scheme run by Aubrey Lee Price. FSC was one of the broker dealers involved in the scheme, and investors had alleged that FSC failed to supervise brokers who sold the investors “unspecified fraudulent securities as part of a Ponzi scheme.”

    About 14,000 victims in the TelexFree Ponzi scheme received a distribution from a $3.5 million fund that was set up as a result of a settlement between the Massachusetts Securities Division and Fidelity Co-Operative Bank.

    The ZeekRewards receiver made a third distribution to victims of the scheme for 489.2 million. The raises the total amount distributed to $24605 million. The scheme is believed to have raised money from at least 2.2 million customers.