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

Sunday, April 30, 2023

April 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for April 2023. The good news is that the activity for Ponzi schemes was slightly lighter this month.  But there were still 9 new Ponzi schemes and 2 guilty pleas reported. The average age for the alleged Ponzi schemers was approximately 43. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Ted Brent Alexander, of Mississippi, changed his plea to a guilty plea for his role in a Ponzi scheme run through Madison Timber Properties by Lamar Adams. Alexander was a lobbyist for the scheme and was charged along with Jon Darrel Seawright in connection with the scheme that involved $164 million. The scheme purportedly involved buying timber rights from landowners and reselling them to mills at higher prices.

Marcus Todd Brisco, 26, of Texas, was charged by the CFTC on charges that he and his companies, Yas Castellum LLC and Yas Castellum Financial LLC, ran a $146 million Ponzi scheme. Other co-defendants are Tin Quoc Tran, Francisco Story, Fredirick Safranko, Michael Sims, and SAEG Capital General Management LP.

Jason D. Bullard, 58, of Minnesota, and his wife, Angela Romero Bullard, 50, were sued by the SEC alleging that they ran a Ponzi scheme from 2007 through 2021 that took in more than $18 million from 200 investors.  The Bullards owed Empire Racing Stables LLC, a one timing winning horse operations. The SEC complaint alleges that the Bullards and their business, Bullard Enterprises LLC, promised returns of 10% to 12% annually from two funds used to trade foreign currencies. Some of the funds were used in their racing business and other unrelated ventures, including DLJ Real Estate LLC and Empire Investments LLC.

Christopher Burns, 40, of Georgia, was indicted on charges that he was running a Ponzi scheme through his entities, including Investus Advisers, LLC, Investus Financial, LLC, Dynamic Money, and Peer Connect, LLC. The scheme defrauded investors out of at least $10 million and ran from 2017 to 2020. Burns remains at large, having fled the day before he was scheduled to turn over documents to the SEC.

David J. Bunevacz, of California, had a default judgement entered against him in an action brought by the SEC alleging that he took more than $32 million in investor funds in a cannabis oil related Ponzi scheme. 

Marc Celello, 54, of Georgia, was ordered to pay $8.7 million for his part in a $40 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded about 100 investors. Celello is a disbarred attorney who was the general counsel for Credit Nation Capital LLC run by James Torchia, the mastermind of the scheme who was ultimately acquitted of criminal charges. The scheme involved promissory notes tied to life insurance policies and automobile loans.

Stefan Ciopraga, of Romania, and YieldTrust.ai were sued by state regulators in Montana, Texas, and Alabama in enforcement actions against the cryptocurrency trading platform. Ciopraga claimed that the decentralized application DApp aka Yieldbot is “powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence.” Yieldbot promised returns of up to 2.2% per day.

Michael J. French, of South Carolina, and his companies MJF Holdings, LLC and MJF Capital LLC, were charged by the SEC on allegations that they ran a fraudulent scheme that defrauded over 400 investors out of more than $20 million. French promised returns of 12% from loans to small businesses or investments in commercial loans on a fractional basis. The scheme ran for two years, and French used at least $13.2 million on personal expenses and to make Ponzi payments to earlier investors. 

Harvest Keeper, Visque Capital, Coinbot, and QuantFund, along with Maxpread Technologies and its CEO Jan Gregory Cerato were the subject of cease and desist orders from the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. The companies are all cryptocurrency companies using artificial intelligence technology.

Michael R. Kuntz, of North Dakota, and his entities, National Sports Opportunity Partners, LLC and ICON Investment Group, LLC were accused of running Ponzi scheme. Jeremy L. Carlson operated and controlled Jamieson Capital Financial, LLC and he represented himself as Treasurer for National Sports Opportunity Partners, LLC.

Rand Heckler, 67, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a $1 million Ponzi scheme. Heckler persuaded friends to invest in a hedge fund that he was managing that was invested in stocks.

Joshua David Nicholas was ordered to pay $300,000 as part of a consent judgment with the SEC in connection with a $40 million Ponzi scheme run through Empires Consulting Corp. The scheme involved a cryptocurrency platform called EmpiresX. Nicholas was previously sentenced to 51 months in prison in connection with the scheme run with alleged co-conspirators, Emerson Pires and Flavio Goncalves.

Rashawn Russell, 27, of New York, was indicted on charges that he was running a crypto Ponzi scheme. Russell guaranteed returns to investors, sometimes promising up to 25%. He falsified bank statements and created fake wire transfer confirmations.

Johann Steynberg was ordered to pay $1.73 billion in restitution to defrauded victims and another $1.73 billion in penalties in connection with the Mirror Trading International Ponzi scheme. The Bitcoin investment platform operated in South Africa and Australia and has been declared a Ponzi scheme. Over $589 million worth of cryptocurrency vanished from the firm, and at least 23,000 victims in the U.S, were impacted by the scheme.

Charles Winn LLC, Aaron David Scott-Britten (aka Aaron David aka Aaron Scott, aka Aaron David K. Britten), Ohran Emmanuel Stewart aka Elliott Stewart, Casey Alexander, and Charlie Jake Smith, were sued by the SEC for allegedly running an $8.5 million Ponzi scheme. The scheme involved investments in the sale of fine wine to at least 121 investors.  The co-defendants were to buy investment-grade wines for the investors, sell the wine at a profit, and share a portion of the profits with the investors. The investors were promised returns between 10% and 45%.



Nilish Kumar Kar was arrested in connection an alleged online Ponzi scheme run through Cloud-Fut. The scheme defrauded more than 80,000 investors.

Sachin Pal, Ankush Singh and Kuldeep were arrested on charges that they were operating a Ponzi scheme through www.r46.in. They promised commissions of 15% to 20% through a digital marketing site.

Sri Lanka

The accounts of the directors of OnmaxDT Ltd. were frozen in connection with an alleged crypto Ponzi scheme. The accounts were opened in connection with the Binance.com scheme. Accounts frozen were in the following names: Dhananjaya Gayan, Sampath Sandaruwan Lenaduwage, Saranga Randika Jayatissa,Vikramapeli Gedera Chandrakanti and Kahadawa Arachchige Athula Indika Sampath.

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