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, February 28, 2023

February 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for February 2023. This month revealed at least 7 new Ponzi schemes, 2 guilty pleas and over 29 years of new prison sentences. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 54. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Eddy Alexandre, 51, pleaded guilty in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through EminiFX. The scheme involved a cryptocurrency and forex trading platform that promised investors 5% weekly returns that were supposedly generated through a secretive robo-advising technology. Alexandre has agreed to forfeit $249 million that was obtained from investors.

Gilbert Armenta, 59, was sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with the Onecoin scheme. Armenta is the former boyfriend of the founder of Onecoin, Ruja Ignatova. Armenta helped launder $300 million from the crypto Ponzi scheme. 

Ray Brewer, 66, pleaded guilty to charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme involving cow manure. Brewer stole $8.7 million in connection with a scheme in which he claimed that he built anaerobic digesters on dairies in California that used microorganisms to break down biodegradable material, and turned it into methane. Brewer represented that he could then sell the gas on the open market. Investors were promised 66% of net profits and tax incentives.

Marcus Todd Brisco, of Hawaii, and his companies Yas Castellum LLC and Yas Castellum Financial LLC, were charged by the CFTC along with Tin Quoc Tran of Texas, Francisco Story of Utah, Fredirick “Ted” Safranko of Canada, Michael Shannon Sims, and SAEG Capital General Management LP. Tran was allegedly operating a fraudulent commodity pool scam that involved over $144 million taken from 913 pool participants with promises of returns from trading foreign exchange or margined or leveraged gold-U.S. dollar pairs. Brisco and his companies allegedly made misrepresentations to at least 43 pool participants through one company and to at least 57 participants through another, and then funneled the money to a Tran-controlled entity.

Ramon Salvador Delgado-Gomez aka Ramon S. Gomez, and his companies FX Latino and FXL Investment PR LLC, along with Walmy Rivera-Santiago and her company JRH Services Inc., and Hector Javier Santos-Pagan and his company Infinity Investment Construction Management Corp. were sued by the CFTC on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme involving more than $27 million. The scheme involved pooled investments in retail foreign currency trading and targeted over 2,000 investors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. 

John K. Eckerd, 58, of Texas, was indicted along with Afif Baltagi, 45, in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme involving the financing of giant tires used on mining and earth-moving vehicles. More than 50 investors were defrauded in the scheme involve $50 million. Eckerd and his co-conspirators represented that they had access to heavily discounted tires that they could sell at full price to buyers and could generate returns of up to 20%. Prosecutors say that almost no tires were actually bought and sold. Eckerd previously pleaded guilty to an unrelated scheme to launder money. Jason E. Adkins, 46, was previously convicted and sentenced in connection with the scheme. Todd Wilkin, 60, was also previously convicted in connection with the scheme.

Amberjit Endow has been accused of running a more than $41 million investment fraud while working at Deloitte in Australia as a partner. The alleged scheme was run through his private company, Endow Family Cap, which is now under investigation. Endow promised investors returns of 39.02% in 6 months from the supposed purchase of Indian government-issued bonds. The bonds were purportedly linked to a large government infrastructure program that is improving India’s rural road network.

Joseph W. Floyd, IV and his brother William F. Floyd Jr., of North Carolina, were sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme they ran through their family insurance business, Floyd Insurance Agency. They took in more than $20 million through a supposed loan program in which 150 investors were given promissory notes and promised returns and redemptions upon demand.

Ryan Guidry, 45, was sentenced to 6 years and 6 months in prison for his role in the DC Solar Ponzi scheme. Guidry became vice president of operations in 2015, and prosecutors alleged that he knew that investors were being defrauded. The scheme was run by Jeff Carpoff, 52, and his wife Paulette Carpoff, 49. DC Solar manufactured solar generator units and claimed there were favorable federal tax benefits from investments in alternative energy, but the company sold more solar generators than they manufactured and falsified documents to conceal the fraud. Jeff Carpoff was sentence to 30 years, Paulette Carpoff was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months, and others have also been sentenced as follows:  Joseph W. Bayliss, 47, was sentenced to 3 years, Robert A. Karman, 45, was sentenced to 6 years, and Alan Hansen was sentenced to 8 years. Robert J. Roach, 55, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Vladimir Okhotniko aka Lado, Olena Oblamska aka Lola Ferrari, Mikhail Sergeev aka Mike Money aka Gleb aka Gleb Million, and Sergey Maslakov were charged in Oregon on allegations that they stole more than $340 million in connection with a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme known as Forsage. The four and previously been charged along with 7 others by the SEC in connection with the alleged scheme that was a purportedly decentralized finance (DeFi) cryptocurrency investment platform. They used “smart contracts” which are self-executing contracts on the blockchain so that earlier investors would be paid money as soon as an investor would buy a slot in a contract.

Jeffrey Soberman Parket, 59, of New York, pleaded guilty in connection with a $65 million Ponzi scheme that led to over $37 million in victim losses. Parket is a former bond trader and hedge fund founder and admitted to forging and falsifying documents to bring in more than $65 million in loans supposedly for short-terms funding for investment opportunities or to buy real estate. The scheme ran for six years.

Martin Silver, 65, was sentenced to 13 months in connection with a $100 million Ponzi scheme run through International Investment Group LLC. His co-conspirator, David Hu, was previously sentenced to 12 years. The scheme involved over-valuing distressed loans and creating falsified documents and fake loans to hide losses. The company supposedly specialized in global trade financing, providing loans to small and medium-sized businesses in Central and South America using coffee, fish, and other food products as collateral. 

Reva Joyce Stachniw, 71, and Ron Throgmartin, 59, were each sentenced to 6 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $35 million in restitution and forfeitures. They promised 10% to 20% returns and raised $650 million by promising profits from a cattle business and a marijuana business known as Universal Herbs LLC in Colorado. The scheme ran from 2017 through 2019 and was operated along with Mark Ray who pleaded guilty in 2020.

Armen A. Temurian, of California, and Vista Network Technologies were sued by the CFTC on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme involving Bitcoin. The scheme involved $7 million, and investors were promised returns from trading of digital assets using “robot traders” which did not exist. Investors were promised a 2.5% daily return or “double in just 80 days.”

INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS 

Australia

David Spinina was charged in connection with an alleged $180 million foreign exchange Ponzi scheme run through Courtenay House. Authorities allege that Spinina defrauded at least 585 investors, promising them returns from foreign exchange and futures markets. Tony Iervasi, the mastermind behind the Courtenay House scheme, was found guilty in 2022, and Athan Papoulias pleaded guilty just after that.  

Canada

Colin Murphy, 26, was accused of operating a Ponzi scheme within a Ponzi scheme. Murphy was allegedly working with Aiden Pleterski in connection with a $35 million scheme. Murphy allegedly raised over $850,000 for the cryptocurrency and foreign exchange trading company and showed investors his Porsche and Lamborghini as evidence of the returns on the investment. Murphy also stored boxes of cash at his grandfather’s house which he claimed were returns stored for other investors.

Christopher Uitvugt was permanently banned by authorities from working in the securities field or in the investment market. Uitvugt was the CEO of Next Level Investments and ran a foreign exchange scheme that promised 550% returns on a three-month term investment.

India

Jagdish Mishra was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Raj Godson Services Private Limited.

Authorities arrested two directors of Hakim & Rustam Fabrics Private Limited on allegations that they defrauded more than 800 investors in connection with a football betting and gaming App.

Philippines

Authorities warned against investing in what is alleged to be Ponzi schemes run through Oyala, which is an unregistered entity not licensed to sell investments to the public. Oyala supposedly invested in retail, education, real estate, banking, telecommunications, water infrastructure, renewable energy, electronics, information technology, automotive, healthcare, management, and business process outsourcing.  The scheme promised 30% in a stable products investment program, 5% in welfare products, and 2% for indirect recommendations.

Authorities warned that Meta Trade is operating as a Ponzi scheme which promised 30% returns after 5 days, 70% after 10 days, and 400% after 30 days.

Authorities warned that BKC Trading is a Ponzi scheme that promises between 12% and 36% returns within three to six months.

South Africa

Dennis Mbongeni Jali, a pastor wanted by the FBI, was arrested in connection with a $28 million scheme run through Forex Billionaires Club. Jali’s co-conspirators, John Frimpong and Arley Johnson, 63, posed as pastors as well, encouraging people to invest in a business that would supposedly help churches and congregants make money. The men ran an investment company called The Smart Partners LLC which operated 1st Million or 1st Million Dollars.

Thailand

Prosecutors indicted 8 people, including Pattanapon Minthakhin and his girlfriend, Suteewan Thaweesin, in connection with the Forex-3D alleged Ponzi scheme. 

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