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

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

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

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

Robert Blom, 58, of South Dakota, was indicted on charges relating to an alleged Ponzi scheme that was a custom cattle-feeding business. Losses are estimated at about $20 million, and there were 53 victims. Blom has pleaded not guilty.

Neil Burkholz, 82, and Frank Bianco, 70, and their companies, Palm Financial Management LLC and Shore Management Systems, were the subject of a judgment obtained by the SEC relating to a $6 million Ponzi scheme called the “Amazing Profits Group.” They allegedly defrauded about 55 investors through their companies, and falsely represented that their proprietary options trading strategies were highly profitable. They promised returns as high as 34% at a time when the fund actually lost 55% of its value. The SEC complaint also names Rhoda Burkholz and Suzanne Bianco as relief defendants.

Brook Church- Koegel, David H. Goldman and Nicole J. Walker were sued by the SEC for their alleged participation in the Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC Ponzi scheme run by Robert Shapiro. The three allegedly sold and assisted others in selling about $444 million in Woodbridge securities. The Woodbridge scheme raised at least $1.22 billion from more than 8,400 investors.

Breonna Clark aka Eliot Clark aka Alexander Pak was sued by the CFTC on allegations that he ran a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 72 victims out of more than $500,000. The alleged scheme was run through Venture Capital Investments, Enterprise Capital Investments Ltd. and The Life Group. The scheme promised returns from pooled investments in retail foreign currency contracts, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Juan Carlos Cortes, Roberto Cortez, Ernesto Weisson, and their companies South Bay Holding and Biscayne Group, were sued by a group of 162 investors alleging that they were defrauded in a $250 million Ponzi scheme. The victims are mostly South American investors who were promised returns from real estate developments in Florida.

Christopher Dougherty, 47, pleaded guilty to charges that he ran a $6 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded 49 victims. Dougherty promised returns from investments such as a 100-acre organic cattle ranch and a marijuana growing project.

David Gentile and his company GPB Capital Holdings LLC are under investigation on allegations that they are operating a Ponzi scheme. The company represented that it bought income-producing auto dealerships and waste management businesses with investors’ funds. The scheme promised investors 8% returns.

Matthew Goettsche and Jobadiah Weeks submitted requests to be released from prison due to their fear that they may contract the coronavirus in prison. The two are in prison in connection with the BitClub crypto Ponzi scheme.

Barry Edward Kloogh, 57, pleaded guilty to defrauding investors out of at least $15.7 million. Kloogh had more than 2000 clients and ran the scheme by charging the payer for transactions through his e-banking system.

Todd H. Lahr, 60, of Pennsylvania, was indicted for his role in a $2.7 million alleged Ponzi scheme. Lahr is a lawyer and allegedly worked with others to target his clients through the fraudulent sale of securities for THL Holdings LLC and Ferran Global Holdings Inc. Investors were told that their money would be used for business ventures, including a mining operation in Papua New Guinea. Lahr pleaded not guilty, but a change of plea hearing has been scheduled for April.

Donnie Laing, Jr., 39, pleaded guilty to charges that he orchestrated a Ponzi scheme through his company, Capital Energy Investments, LLC. The scheme defrauded investors out of $1.2 million. Laing represented that he owned a business that bought and rented out oil and gas equipment.

Philip Elvin Riehl, 68, pleaded guilty in connection with a $60 million Ponzi scheme that targeted members of the Mennonite and Amish communities in Pennsylvania. Riehl is an accountant who allegedly solicited funds into a bogus investment program and then diverted the funds to Tricking Springs Creamery LLC. Public filings from the prior year show that Riehl and co-owners Gerald Byers, Elvin Martin and Dale Martin were accused of defrauding more than 100 investors out of nearly $9 million.

Zachary Salter, 28, the co-founder of Zima Digital Assets, and John Caruso, pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with an alleged cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of $9 million. The alleged scheme involved more than 90 investors.

Michael Staisil was the subject of a subpoena enforcement action by the SEC due to his believed involvement in a $345 million Ponzi-like scheme run by Kevin Merrill, Jay Ledford, and Cameron Jezierski. Staisil is believed to have raised millions from the scheme that defrauded over 230 investors.



The operations of Epayments were suspended after it was accused of having links to the cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme of Onecoin. Epayments was a money transfer firm and held more than $200 million in customer deposits for more than 1 million customers.

Alistair Greig, 66, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that guaranteed high rates of returns to nearly 200 investors. The scheme was run through Midas Financial Solutions and involved $16.4 million.


Fourteen people were arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Cane Infotech Limited, Cane Agricultural Developer Limited India and Cane Agro Cooperative Society. The accused are Sukhchain Singh and his wife Sarbjit Kaur; Sukhwinder Singh and his wife Paramjit Kaur; Gurwinder Singh; Jugraj Singh; Mahavir Singh; Raj Kumar; Sandeep Puri; Gursewak Singh; Navinder Singh; Kuldeep Singh; Baljit Singh and Kuldeep Singh.


A Kenyan man identified as Abdalia allegedly sold more than 20 Somalia MPs from Somalians through a forex-trading company called Maalin.


Chiu Tzu-chien, 64, Lee Chun-lin, 64, and Chiu Hui-ying, 61, were charged in connection with a $143.6 million alleged Ponzi scheme that defrauded 1,115 people.  The scheme was run through Mega Dynamo Technology Co. which supposedly focused on wind energy generation and chemical and construction materials. Victims were told that the company owned the patent for “green concrete” and were promised returns of 8.4% to 12%.

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