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, December 31, 2023

December 2023 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for December 2023. Eleven Ponzi schemes hit the news for the first time this month. There were 3 life sentences imposed along with more than 37 years of prison sentences for Ponzi schemers, and 2 guilty pleas were entered. The average age of the fraudsters was about 46 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Henry Abdo, 46, and Florida-based Titanium Capital LLC were charged by the SEC with operating a Ponzi scheme that raised at least $5.3 million. Carol Ann Barsh was also sued for her role in soliciting investors, and Abdo’s wife, Ganna Migulina, and relative Elias Abdo, were also named in the complaint. They misrepresented that funds would be invested in a “Multi Currency Investment Fund” backed by a proprietary currency exchange. They claimed that the investment had never lost money and generated up to 10% compounded interest for a five-year investment. Abdo was also criminally charged and has pleaded not guilty.

Alexandria Porter Bovee aka Aia Montgomer aka Alexandria Jo-Marie Porter, 37, of Nevada, was barred by FINRA due to her ties to Integrated National Resources dba WeedGenics, a cannabis company that was operating a Ponzi scheme. Bovee was named as a relief defendant in the SEC’s case against WeedGenics and its operators Rolf Max Hirschmann aka Max Bergmann, 52, and Patrick Earl Williams, 34. The scheme raised about $61.7 million from about 350 investors.

Stephen Burton, 58, pleaded not guilty to running an alleged Ponzi scheme with James Wellesley, 56, through Bordeaux Cellars. Burton had been extradited to the United States from Morocco and Wellesley remains in extradition proceedings in Britain. The two claimed that they brokered loans to high-net-worth wine collectors and the loans would be backed by wine stored by Bordeaux Cellars. Nearly $100 million was invested in the scheme.

David Carmona, 40, of New York, pleaded guilty to charges relating to his Ponzi scheme known as IcomTech. The scheme involved a cryptocurrency scam the involved purported mining and trading. Marco Ruiz Ochoa, 35, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Other co-defendants are Juan Arellano, Moses Valdez, David Brend, and Gustavo Rodriguez.

Maria Dulce Pino Dickerson aka Dulce Pino was sued by dozens of investors accusing her of running a Ponzi scheme through Creative Legal Fundings.  Dickerson promised 10% returns from investments in law activities.  The scheme targeted the Filipino community. Dickerson is also part of an IRS criminal investigation.

Tochukwu Abel Edeh, 33, of Nigeria, was sentenced to 3½ years in prison and ordered to pay over $2.5 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme involving both a used car dealership and cryptocurrency located in Nigeria. Edeh laundered the funds along with co-conspirators, though the U.S. Charles Ochi was previously sentenced to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to the scheme. 

Diana Mae Fernandez, 37, was charged by the SEC on allegations that she was running a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. Fernandez is a self-described “entrepreneur” and promised guaranteed returns as high as 63% from what she represented were investments in cryptocurrency, private and publicly traded companies, and luxury real estate. She raised about $364,000 from at least 20 investors through her entities The Self-Made Success and Diana Mae K, LLC. Fernandez did not invest the funds as promised but used them to pay for her living expenses, a lavish lifestyle, and to make Ponzi payments to earlier investors. She told investors she had more than 15 years of investing experience and had raised $100 million in 25 countries. Fernandez had been criminally charged earlier this year.

Horst Jicha, 64, a German national, was arrested on charges that he masterminded a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme run through USI-Tech, which is short for United Software Intelligence. The company was purportedly incorporated in the United Arab Emirates and claimed to make “cryptocurrency mining and trading accessible to the average retail investor through its online platform.” The scheme promised 140% returns over 140 days. Jiha had $94 million worth of Bitcoin under his control at the time of his indictment.

Adrian Kawuba, 33, of Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to charges relating to a scheme in which he promised returns from investments in short-term financing of sports ventures in Africa. The scheme involved at least $2.3 million in investor funds. 

Josh Link, 30, of Arizona, Jed Wood, 62, of Texas, and their company, Agridime LLC, were sued by the SEC which obtained an asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver. The SEC alleged that Agridime, which claims to specialize in meat sales, distribution, and animal supply chain management, was engaged in a Ponzi scheme. The defendants promised returns of 15% to 32% from raising cattle and raised at least $191 million for more than 2,100 investors. On its website, Agridime states the company "is an online cattle and agricultural products brokerage company that utilizes a proprietary trading platform to connect buyers and sellers."

Motty Mizrahi, 51, of California, was sentenced to 9 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 40 investors out of $6 million. Mizrahi’s brother, Sassi Misrahi, 58, was convicted earlier in the year, sentenced to 7 years and 3 months, and ordered to pay $4.4 million in restitution. They ran the scheme through MBIG Company and guaranteed returns of 2% to 3% monthly as well as annual returns of 30% to 102%.

Matthew Piercey, 27, was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison in connection with a $35 million Ponzi scheme run through his companies, Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla. When Piercey’s fraud first came to light, he unsuccessfully attempted to evade the FBI in an underwater submersible.

David Gilbert Saffron aka David Gilbert aka Dave Gabe aka Blue Wizard aka Bitcoin Yoda, 51, of Australia, and Vincent Anthony Mazzotta Jr., 52, of California, were charged on allegations that they were running a crypto Ponzi scheme. More than $25 million was invested and investors were promised profits from trading programs that supposedly used an artificial intelligence automated trading bot. The investment programs operated under various names, including Circle Society, Bitcoin Wealth Management, Omicron Trust, Mind Capital, and Cloud9Capital. Saffron and Mazzotta created a fictitious entity called the Federal Crypto Reserve and solicited investors to pay the Federal Crypto Reserve to investigate and recover their losses in the investment programs. 

Rodolfo Villareal, 52, of California, pleaded not guilty to charges that he stole about $282,000 in an alleged Ponzi scheme. 



Stephen Rae, 63, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in connection with a £2.1 million Ponzi scheme to which he had previously pleaded guilty. The scheme defrauded 16 investors. Rae represented that he was a successful financial advisor and director of Mason Morton Ltd. Instead of investing the money, Rae spent it on himself and his family, living a lavish lifestyle. 


Ajeet Maurya, 41, a social influencer, was arrested on allegations that he was running a Ponzi scheme. Maurya is reported to have 2 wives, 9 children and 6 girlfriends.

Ramendu Chattophyay was taken into custody in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through Tower Group.

Simpy Bhardwaj aka Simpy Gaur was arrested on charges that in connection with the bitcoin Ponzi scheme known as Gain Bitcoin Ponzi scheme through Variabletech Pte Ltd. The scheme was run with her husband, Ajay Bharadwaj, and her late brother-in-law, Amit Bharadwaj. The scheme involved over 100,000 investors and promised monthly returns of 10%.

Prince Kumar, the director of Digital Revolution Technologies Limited, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in a Ponzi scheme that that defrauded hundreds of investors by promising false returns from digital products.


Barmise Samson Ajetunmobi and his company, Imagine Global Solution Limited, were charged on allegations that that they were running a Ponzi scheme involving N15 billion. Ajetunmobi pleaded not guilty to the charges.


Joel Apolinario, Cristobal R. Baradad, and Joji A. Jusay were sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the Kapa Community Ministry International Inc. Ponzi scheme. Investors were promised 30% monthly returns on their investments. 

Authorities warned the public against investing in Salon De Pamplona which is soliciting investments without required licenses. The investment program is operated by Ramillo Pamplona Pumbaya, and returns were promised of 15% after 30 days.

South Africa

Jacobus Geldenhuis was fined $143 million for running a Ponzi scheme, he was previously barred from selling financial services or acting as an advisor. 


Nattasilp Chaiwisit, 48, and his spouse Nattawanon, 41, were held on charges that they allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 73 people out of about 54 million baht.


Secil Erzan, a bank manager of a Denisbank AS branch, was accused of orchestrating a $44 million Ponzi scheme. Erzan promised returns of 250%, and authorities alleged that bags of cash were changing hands at candy shops.