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

Thursday, August 31, 2023

August 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for August 2023. At least 9 new Ponzi schemes came to light this month. Ten years of prison sentences were imposed on Ponzi schemers. The average age of the fraudsters was about 50 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Christopher Anderson, 47, of New Jersey, and Richard Curry, 36, of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to charges relating to the alleged $35 million Ponzi scheme masterminded by Eliyahu “Eli” Weinstein aka Mike Konig. Others charged in connection with the scheme are Aryeh “Ari” Bromberg, 49, and Joel Wittels, 57, Shlomo Erez, 55, a citizen of Israel, and Alaa Hattab, 34, of Canada. Anderson and Curry owned Tryon Management Group LLC. The scheme defrauded at least 150 investors. 

Denny Bhakta, of California, faced new charges in connection with a $4 million PPP loan, while earlier charges in connection with a $15 million Ponzi scheme remain pending. The SEC charged Bhakta in 2021 for an alleged scheme run through Fusion Hotel Management and Fusion Hospitality Corporation.

Wynn A.D. Charlebois, 53, of North Carolina, pleaded guilty to charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of more than $5.3 million. Charlebois ran the scheme from 2015 through October 2022 and defrauded at least 39 investors. He promised that their investments were risk free and that he had stock options that investors could purchase.

William V. Conn Jr., a Georgia CPA, was charged by the SEC in connection a Ponzi scheme run through Horizon Private Equity, III LLC. The scheme raised $100 million from about 400 investors, most of whom were elderly. John Woods was the mastermind of the scheme. 

Johanna Michely Garcia, 40, of Florida, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through MJ Capital Funding LLC. MJ Capital offered merchant cash advances and brought in $190,700,000 and promised investors about 10% of the money they raised. Pavel Ramon Ruiz Hernandez was charged in 2022 and pleaded guilty in April this year. Garcia had been dubbed Florida’s Mother Theresa for helping companies get short-term financing. 

Erik J. Hass, 53, of Oregon, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison and ordered to pay $1.75 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme that he ran through Simply Grains Inc. Hass claimed that the company supported Christian ministries and organizations while offering returns for investors. He offered compounded annual returns of up to 30%.

Peter P.D. Leach, of Rhode Island, pleaded guilty to charges related to a Ponzi scheme that misappropriated $500,000 and caused losses of more than $250,000. Leach is a personal injury lawyer who misappropriated more than $500,000 in client settlement funds.

Douglas Lien, 82, of New Mexico, pleaded guilty to charges that he ran a 20-year Ponzi scheme that resulted in losses of about $5 million for 27 investors.

Allen Todd May aka Jacob Turner, 58, was caught five years after he escaped prison in connection with a $7 million Ponzi scheme. May was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 and escaped in 2018 by stealing a prison van. May was caught living a lavish lifestyle in Florida under a false name. While in prison, it is believed that he stole more than $700,000 by impersonating companies owed oil and gas royalties. 

Volodimyr Pigida, 48, failed to show up to his sentencing hearing. He was convicted last year on charges that he was running a Ponzi scheme with his wife, Marina Bondarenko that defrauded victims out of over $11 million. The scheme involved “Trend Sound Promoter” that convinced people to buy packages related to email marketing.

Craig Sherman, 80, of Florida, pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded clients in a Ponzi scheme. Sherman is a retired lawyer who promised investors 6% to 8% returns from real estate projects where he would loan money for construction projects. The total losses were approximately $7 million.

Chad Stickforth and his company, RSF Capital LP, were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged $5 million Ponzi scheme. Stickforth raised money from approximately 20 investors, promising returns from futures contracts, commodity interests and options.

Roman Storm, of Washington, and Roman Semenov, of Russia, were charged in connection with a cryptocurrency scheme called Tornado Cash that allegedly made more than $1 billion in money laundering transactions. They are believed to have laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for the Lazarus Group, a North Korean cybercrime organization. Tornado Cash claimed it was untraceable and allowed for anonymous financial transactions.

Steven Keith Woodard Sr., of Hawaii, consented to a ban from the securities industry in connection with charges that he ran a $6 million Ponzi scheme. Woodard did not admit or deny the allegations that he defrauded about 30 investors in a supposed risk-free trading scheme. Woodard sold clients of his advisory firm, Morganwood, promissory notes that offered annual returns of 15% to 30%. He used fund names such as Tangible Economy Fund and Hi-Income Fund

Jeven “J” Wright, 40, was arrested in connection with alleged Ponzi scheme involving the buying and reselling of cars. Wright was supposedly involved in the import and export of cars but needed financing to purchase cars. 



Metaverse Foreign Exchange Group (MTFE) collapsed and is alleged to have been running a Ponzi scheme. Masud Al Islam is believed to be the mastermind of the scheme that was a trading service provider for online investment in foreign exchange, commodities, stocks and other products. Over $1 billion may have been lost in the scheme. The scheme is being investigated in Sri Lanka.


Johann Steynberg was found guilty in connection with the South African crypto trading scheme run through Mirror Trading International. He was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison, but the court commuted his sentence to a fine of just over $31,000.


Curtis Gordon Quigley, 56, and Kathleen Treadgold, 56, were charged in connection with an alleged $7.8 million scheme. The scheme was run through Group Venture Inc. and promised returns from the flipping of real estate. 


A judgment was entered against Robin Forster, the director of Qualia Care Properties Ltd. and Qualia Care Developments Ltd. The Qualia Care entities offered investments in care homes run by Qualia Care Limited where investors purchased a long-term lease in a care home and then sublet the room back to Qualia. Investors were promised returns of 10% of the purchase price. The scheme took in £57 million from 380 investors. The action is also against the sales agent for the scheme, Fortem Global Limited, which was owned by Forster and Richard Tasker.


Authorities arrested Darshan Paranjape, 40, in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that defrauded 33 investors out of Rs 9 crore.

Nirod Das, one of the heads of Solar Techno Alliance, was arrested on allegations that he was running a crypto-currency Ponzi scheme. Solar Techno supposedly offered a service that enabled users to order anything they want from the nearest farmers in the shortest amount of time using block chain technology. The scheme involved the STA token. Gurtej Singh Sidhu and Ratnakar Palai were also arrested in connection the crypto-currency scheme that defrauded more than 10,000 victims. The scheme is believed to involve more than $120 million. David Gez, a Hungarian national, is believed to be the head of the scheme and a Look Out notice has been issued again him. A Look Out notice was also issued against Krishna Kumar, Anil Kumar, and Bhoora Ram.

S Chitravel, 31, was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Bettec Technologies Private Limited, run by Guanhua Wang. Wang also runs Gamecamp Technologies Private Limited and Byrontec Solutions Private Limited.

Prabir Kumar Chanda and Pranab Kumar Das, directors of MPS Greenery Developers Limited, were arrested in connection with a scheme that they ran through the company. MPS was also controlled by Pramatha Nath Manner.


Authorities shut down Stockmatch Investments Limited for engaging in illegal investment activities. Neither the entity nor the investments are registered.

South Africa

Neo Patrick Makhokolo, 29, the co-founder of Black Child Billionaire, was found guilty and sentenced to four years on various counts. Co-founder Lebohang Ernest Maboeba, 27, is on the run. The scheme promised returns of between 25% and 100% per month.