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, October 31, 2023

October 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for October 2023. While 4 new Ponzi schemes came to light this month, there were more than 49 years of prison sentences imposed on Ponzi schemers and there were 5 guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 54 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Brett Barber, 44, of California, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a $17 million house-flipping Ponzi scheme. Barber ran the scheme through BNZ Capital One which promised returns between 8% and 10% and later through National American Capital after Barber closed BNZ because authorities were investigating. Another owner of BNZ Capital, Louis Zimmerle, 62, also pleaded guilty.

Darrin Blaine, of Indianna, was the subject of a restraining order in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme involving the sale of securities. Blaine, an attorney, alleged took $680,000 from investors through his companies, Laser Tech Investment Club and Akamai Physics Inc. Another company, Porrima Photonix Inc, was also used in connection with the scheme.

Thomas Brenner, 60, of Ohio, was sentenced to 10 years and 5 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution in connection with his role in a $102 million Ponzi scheme run through United RL Capital Services. The scheme defrauded more than 600 investors, and Brenner solicited clients to invest, promising them their money back with interest after 3 years. Brenner previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Jason Dodd Bullard, 59, of Minnesota, was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in connection with a Ponzi scheme run through Bullard Enterprises LLC that defrauded approximately 100 victims out of over $3.1 million. The scheme involved a foreign currency investment program. Angela Romero-Bullard had previously been sued along with Bullard by the SEC in connection with the scheme.

Nayeen Choudhury, 27, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a $9.5 million Ponzi scheme run through his company, Dream Venture Capital Group. Choudry promised high rates of return from supposed investments into trading options, but Choudry instead suffered losses and lost about $5 million in options trading in 2022 and 2023. 

Joseph W. Floyd, IV, 76, of North Carolina, was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution in connection with a $20 million Ponzi scheme run through Floyd’s Insurance Agency. Floyd’s brother, William F. Floyd, Jr., was previously sentenced. The scheme offered returns to 150 investors through a loan program that promised returns of 6% to 19% and represented that is was a safe investment. 

Scott Hughes, 47, Cecilia Millan, 41, and Karina Chairez, 47, were sentenced in connection with the AirBit Club Ponzi scheme after they pleaded guilty. Hughes received an 18-month sentenced for laundering approximately $18 million. Millan received 5 years and Chairex received one year and one day. Co-founder Pablo Renato Rodriquez was sentenced to 12 years in prison last month. Gutemberg Dos Santos, 48, co-cofounder of AirBit Club, also pleaded guilty in connection with the cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. Jackie Aguilar, who pleaded guilty, reportedly passed away a few weeks prior to sentencing. AirBit Club guaranteed daily returns from crypto mining and trading and brought in $100 million of investors’ money.

Jeffrey Ikahn aka Jeff Hill aka Jeffrey Santulan, 41, of California, and Safeguard Metals LLC consented to an order finding them liable for a $68 million scheme that defrauded elderly investors. The scheme involved precious metals in which overpriced silver coins were sold to investors. 

Paul Kimmins Lebo, 41, of Ohio, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and ordered to pay $635,000 in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded about 100 people. Lebo promised equity ownership if they invested in his non-operational hedge fund called Paul Kimmins Investments (PKI), LP and promised that investors that their deposits were fully refundable. He previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Gopala Krishnan aka GK, Manivannan Shanmugam, and Sakthivel Palani Gounder, along with their company, Nanban Ventures LLC, were sued by the SEC on allegations that they were running a $130 million fraudulent scheme. The scheme allegedly targeted the Indian American community and involved more than 350 investors. Investors were promised returns of more than 100% from options trading.

Ari Lauer, 59, of California, was charged in connection with the DC Solar Ponzi scheme. He has already been sued by the SEC on charges that he aided and abetted the Ponzi scheme run by Jeffrey Carpoff, 52, and Paulette Carpoff, 49. They represented that DC Solar made solar powered mobile generators, and over $912 million was paid into the scheme. Lauer is a lawyer who allegedly assisted in creating documents to hide transfers and conceal the fraud. Jeffrey Carpoff was previously sentenced to 30 years in prison, Paulette Carpoff was sentenced to 11 years, 3 months, and Joseph Bayliss, 48, was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Long Nguyen, 35, of California, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 20 people out of almost $2 million. Nguyen falsely claimed he was a billionaire, that he had access to pre-IPO investment opportunities, and that he managed a real estate investment trust.

Darrant Robinson and QYU Holdings Inc. were sued by the CFTC on allegations that they ran a $7.1 million scheme that defrauded at least 30 people into investing in a commodity pool. The CFTC alleges that instead of trading on commodity interests, QYU and Robinson instead deposited the funds into QYU’s corporate bank account and used the money to pay Robinson’s personal expenses including luxury cruises, luxury vehicles, and property purchases. Robinson allegedly created fake trading data and provided false account statements to show consistent profits for the participants. 

Christopher John Pettit, 56, of Texas, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of up to $65 million. Pettit is lawyer who engaged in Ponzi-like conduct by taking money from his clients and persuading them to invest in his firm, Chris Pettit and Associates, PC. Pettit promised returns from his firm which provided services such as estate planning, investments and real estate transactions, but he instead used the funds for his personal benefit. Pettit claimed the funds would be used for trustee accounts, high-percentage bonds and 1031 real estate exchanges. 

Volodimyr Pigida, 49, of Florida, was arrested after failing to appear for his sentencing hearing in connection with a $22 million Ponzi scheme that caused $11 million in losses. Pigida and his wife, Marina Bondarenko, operated a "work-at-home" email scheme named Trend Sound Promoter. Pigida was convicted in 2022. Bondarenko pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 years and two months in prison in 2019.

Cesar Humberto Pina, 45, of New Jersey, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. Pina’s wife, Jennifer Pina, is also accused in connection with the scheme. The scheme promised returns of 20% to 45% from the alleged purchase, remodel, and sale of certain real estate projects. Raashaun Casey aka DJ Envy was Pina’s business partner and hosted real estate seminars with Pina, but has denied any involvement in the alleged fraudulent scheme. DJ Envy is not named in the criminal charges and has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing. Pina owned Whairhouse LLC and FromStart2Flip LLC.

Carl Ruderman, 82, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the 1 Global Capital LLC Ponzi scheme. Ruderman raised about $330 million for the scheme. Co-conspirators who have previously pleaded guilty are Alan Heide, 65, Jan Atlas, 78, Steven Allen Schwartz, 78, and Andrew Ledbetter, 81. 1 Global promised returns from pay day loans to small businesses at high interest rates.

Abner Tinoco, 27, of Texas, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme in which he solicited approximately $9 million into funds dealing with cryptocurrency and foreign exchange markets. 

Michael Wayne Williams, 48, of Florida, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a Ponzi scheme run through Highguard Capital, Guardian Opportunity Fund, and Guardian Opportunity Management. Over $16 million was invested into the scheme that promised returns from investments in the fund. 



April Vuong and Hao Quach were permanently banned from the capital markets in connection with their fraud convictions relating to a $5.2 million Ponzi scheme.


R Sivakumar, 57, was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Winstar India City Developers that defrauded 1,686 investors out of 74 crore.

Sangram Keshari Patra was sentenced to three years in prison in connection with a scheme run through Kolkata Weir Industries Ltd


BBH Films Nigeria Limited has been accused of running a Ponzi scheme that may have defrauded over 2.7 million Nigerians. BBH claims to be a Nigerian arm of a U.K.-based company, BBH Global


Authorities have flagged 99 Dragons PH as a Ponzi scheme. The scheme promised guaranteed profits of 125% to 200% in 10 to 30 days.

South Africa

Patrick Stapleton, 66, received a 10-year prison sentence for his role in the Ponzi scheme run through his company, Dynamic Group CC. Stapleton and his son, Michael Stapleton, defrauded factor workers by persuading them to invest in “research” about developing an off-road mining vehicle and their paint company, Umbala Paints. Michael previously pleaded guilty and is serving a 5 year sentence.


Authorities have received over 80 complaints from victims of the Capital Chicken Ponzi scheme. The fund promised a 15% monthly profit for amounts invested in the chicken business. Key suspects Pius Wamanga and Ernest Sempebwa are believed to have fled the country.

No comments:

Post a Comment