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. 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

Monday, January 31, 2022

January 2022 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

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

Alexander Avergoon, 46, of California, was sentenced to 64 months in prison and ordered to pay about $9.6 million in restitution for his role in several real estate Ponzi schemes. Avergoon pleaded guilty to charges relating to the schemes and also to participating in tax evasion and fraud schemes with Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. The Ponzi schemes defrauded investors out of $12 million and promised investors monthly dividends from supposed rental income. Avergoon was arrested in Latvia in 2019 and extradited to the United States. 

Tara M. Brunst, 47, of Ohio, pleaded guilty to charges that she ran a scheme that defrauded investors out of about $9.3 million. Brunst was employed as an investment advisor for co-defendant, Raymond A. Erker, 50. Kevin Krantz, 56, was also charged in connection with the scheme. They were accused of selling investments that they misrepresented as annuities and senior secured notes that were with no risk and had a guaranteed rate of return. Erker owned the following companies: Sageguard, Sageguard Consulting, Sageguard Sourcing, Sageguard Technology, Sageguard Venture, Sageguard Solutions and Sageguard Wealth Management Inc., fka Raymond A. Erker Inc., GenSource Financial Assurance Co., and Provident Securities

David deBerardinis, 60, of Louisiana, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in connection with an energy trading Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 20 investors out of more than $100 million.

Bobby Eugene Guess and his companies, including Texas Cash Cow LLC, agreed to settle claims brought by the SEC in connection with an alleged $44 million Ponzi scheme. They will pay about $1.8 million in disgorgement, interest and penalties.

William J. Miles Jr.  and Donald J. Lutzko of Texas were found liable in an SEC action for running a Ponzi scheme through Capital Energy Group LLC. The scheme brought in $3.9 million in an oil and gas scheme. They promised guaranteed returns of 227% or more.

Austin Page and Brandon Teague were arrested in connection with a scheme run through D&T Investments. The scheme is believed to have defrauded more than 350 people and involved more than $12 million. 

Marco “Sully” Perez, of Texas, was sued by the SEC and charged with running a Ponzi scheme. The scheme was run through Permian Basin Proppants Inc. and defrauded at least 265 investors

John Piccarreto, Jr., of New York, was sentenced to 7 years in prison and ordered to pay approximately $19.8 million in restitution in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through Lucian Development along with Perry Santillo and Christopher Parris. About 400 investors were defrauded. Santillo and Parris were previously convicted and are awaiting sentencing.

Elana Cohen-Roth, 77, of California, was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. She is accused of elder abuse and money laundering.  

Manjit “Roger” Sanjit and his company Heartland Group Ventures were charged by the SEC on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme that raised $112 million from more than 700 investors. The funds were to be used to invest in oil and gas projects in the Permian Basin, but the funds were used instead to buy a private jet, a helicopter and real estate in the Bahamas.

Perry Santillo aka King Perry, 41, of New York, was sentenced to 17½ years in prison and ordered to pay $103 million in restitution for his role in the $115 million Ponzi scheme run through Lucian Development and also involved including First Nationale Solution LLC, United RL Capital Services, and Percipience Global Corp. The scheme defrauded 1,000 investors

Junzo Suzuki, 73, and his son, Paul Suzuki, 43, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme involving 10,000 victims run through MRI International Inc. Co-defendant Edwin Fujinaga, 75, was found guilty and is serving a 50-year prison sentence.  The scheme defrauded Japanese investors by promising them returns from a medical collection business.

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Armenia

Eleven people were charged in connection with a UK-registered scheme run through Vodanet British LTD.

Brazil

Johann Steynberg, the CEO of Mirror Trading International, was arrested in connection with the alleged cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. Steynberg allegedly defrauded thousands of investors in South Africa. The scheme promised guaranteed returns of about 10% per month. 

Canada

Mark E. Cohen, 42, who is accused of masterminding a Ponzi scheme, cannot be located. Cohen was involved with a rental car scheme where he was to buy used cars and resell them at a profit due to the shortage of vehicles because of COVID. The scheme offered returns as high as 13% and defrauded investors out of $12 million.

Authorities are cautioning investors about investing in CoinRise, which is Canada’s fasted growing cryptocurrency trading platform.

Charles Richard Burgess was accused of securities violations and of running a Ponzi scheme that sold about $6.3 million of investments to 40 investors.

India

Arun Kumar Shukla, 36, was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that defrauded nearly 60 victims. Shukla’s accomplice is Ambesh Tiwari, and they ran the scheme through Yne Enterprise.

Additional suspects and companies were charged in connection with the Pearls Group Ponzi scheme, including 11 business made and associated companies. The businessmen are Akash Agarwal, Anil Kumar Khemka, Brajendra Singh Bhadouriya, Mannoj Kumar Jain, Prateek Kumar, Praveen Kumar Agarwal, Rajesh Agarwal, Subhash Agarwal, Manmohan Kamal Mahajan and Janeshwar Das. Pearls Infrastructure Projects Limited, ARSS Infrastructure Projects Limited and Jain Infraprojects Limited were also charged, along with Pearls group executives, Harchand Singh Gill, Chander Bhushan Dhillon, Harsatinder Pal Singh Hayer, Sukhwinder Kaur, Balvir Singh, Gurjant Singh Gill, Joginder Tyger, Prem Seth, Gurnam Singh, Barinder Kaur, Mohanlal Sejpal, Kanwaljit Singh Toor, and Tarlochan Singh.

Mahesh Bhadra, his son Chirag Bhadra, 29, and his daughter Mamata Bhadra, 24, were accused of running a Ponzi scheme through the financing company, Anand Enterprises. The scheme allegedly defrauded 495 people.

Mexico

Jonathan Yemelian Sifuentes was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme called Xifra Business Group or Grupo Xifra. Sifuentes was arrested along with his 9 bodyguards, but they were all promptly released because the “facts could not be verified” according to the judge supervising the matter. Sources report that there are still active investigations as to the matter in the U.S. and Mexico.

Nigeria

Four people were arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through QNRT.

Philippines

MassDrop Marketing and Franchising Opc and MDM Ventures Corp. had their registrations revoked on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme. The scheme offered monthly returns of 20% for 90 days and additional returns totaling 160% profit.

Portugal

A 45-year-old Portuguese man was arrested in connection with the 2.5-million-euro scheme run through Bitdrop. The scheme involved cryptocurrency and offered returns of 2.5% per week.

Singapore

Wong Kwan Sing, 50, was sentenced to two years and ten months in jail in connection with a scheme run through The Gold Label. The scheme defrauded 2,000 investors in a gold buy back scheme that brought in more than $120 million. Cases involving another two of its former directors, Singaporean Iseli Rudolf James Maitland, 62, and Malaysian How Soo Feng, 47, are pending.

South Africa

Authorities are investigating an alleged Ponzi scheme known as Africrypt, that involves cryptocurrency the scheme is run by Raees and Ameer Cajee.