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

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

January 2024 Ponzi Scheme Roundu

Below is a summary of Ponzi scheme activity reported for January 2024. At least 6 Ponzi schemes hit the news for the first time this month. There more than 41 years of prison sentences for Ponzi schemers, and 2 guilty pleas. The average age of the fraudsters was about 48 years old. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. 

Rodney Dean Buckle, 66, of Nevada, was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay $283,000 in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme he ran through Rodd United, Rodd U, and Rodd One. Rodd University was a membership-based social club. Buckle promised investors a 100% return on their investments. He established phony businesses and told clients he would invest their funds for them.

Michael Disman, 40, of Texas, pleaded guilty to charges that he was running a $2.7 million Ponzi scheme. Disman admitted to defrauding at least 17 victims using his companies, Dexter Development and Disman Energy. The scheme involved supposed lucrative land development projects, which in reality were nonexistent.

Gopala Krishan, Manivannan Shanmuga, Sakthivel Palani Gounder, and Nanban Ventures LLC were the subject of a preliminary injunction and asset freeze in a case that the SEC had commenced last October. The defendants allegedly raised more than $89 million from more than 350 investors for investments in purported venture capital funds. 

William Koo Ichioka, 30, a Guam resident, was sentenced to 4 years in prison in California and ordered to pay a $5 million fine in connection with a cryptocurrency scheme run through Ichioka Ventures. Ichioka promised returns of 10% every 30 business days to more than 100 investors. Ichioka owes at least $21 million to investors and $40 million to family members.

Siddharth Jawahar, 36, of Texas, was charged in Missouri in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through his company, Swiftare Capital. Jawahar took in $35 million but only spent $10 million on investments. The scheme is believed to be related to Blockchain Global, an Australian blockchain startup that collapsed, with $58 million in claims. 

Horst Jicha, 64, a German national, was charged in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme run through USI Tech, which held itself out as a European-based cryptocurrency investment platform. Investors were promised profits from purchasing BTC Packages or by earning commissions from referring others to purchase investment packages. Jicha, the CEO of USI Tech, promised investors an average of 1% daily returns. 

Sam Lee aka Xue Lee, 35, an Australia, Brenda “Bitcoin Beutee” Chunga, 43, of Maryland, and Rodney Burton aka Bitcoin Rodney, 54, were charged in connection with an alleged $1.89 billion fraudulent cryptocurrency investment scheme run through HyperVerse. The online investment business used the names HyperFund, HyperCapital, HyperNation, and HyperTech. The scheme involved a non-existent bitcoin mining-based investment company and promised daily rewards of .5% to 1%. Chunga pleaded guilty and admitted to receiving at least $3 million.

Prosper E. Beyond Moore, 27, of Georgia, and his entity, Prosperity Investments & Solutions, LLC, were charged by the SEC in connection with an alleged scheme offering unregistered offerings of securities.  The scheme raised more than $1.4 million from over 60 investors, many oof which were members of Moore’s church. Moore represented that Prosperity had an exclusive investing and lending platform that generated up to 50% returns per month.

Ahmet Neidik, 64, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to his role in an off-the-road-tires Ponzi scheme run by John K. Eckerd, Jr., 58, and Jason E. Adkins, 46. The scheme defrauded more than 50 investors out of $50 million. Investors were told that tires would be bought at a steep discount and resold to a buyer at a much higher rate. The defendants rarely bought or sold tires and when they did, they used the same tires for multiple deals.

Kumar Arun Neppalli, 57, of North Carolina, was sentenced to 3 years, 8 months and ordered to pay almost $1 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme that targeted the Indian-American community. Neppalli represented that he had connections to real estate developers in the Orange County area and that he would invest their money in real estate projects.

Marco Ruiz Ochoa, 35, of New Hampshire, was sentenced to 5 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $914,000 for his role in the IcomTech Ponzi scheme. The scheme was founded by David Carmona in 2018, and Ochoa served as the CEO until 2019. Ochoa, Carmona, along with other co-defendants, Juan Arellano Parra, Moses Valdez and David Brend, promised guaranteed returns from cryptocurrency trading and mining. A second company, For-Count, promised victims returns from purchasing crypto-currency-related investment products.

Richard Lee Ramirez, 54, of California was sentenced to 7½ years in prison and ordered to pay about $5.5 million in restitution in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through JMJ Capital Group. Ramirez promised returns of between 10% and 30% from a variety of business ventures, including buying and reselling personal protective equipment, factoring accounts receivable, importing and selling furniture and refurbishing air conditioning units for cruise ships. More than $8.1 million was invested in the scheme that involved at least 34 victims.

Darren Anthony Robinson, 54, of Michigan, was indicted on charges that he operated a Ponzi scheme that stole $100 million from investors. Robinson operated a purported trading firm known as QYU Holdings run out of Panama and Cayman Islands. Robinson is on the run and has not yet been apprehended.

Mark Scott, 54, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection with the OneCoin cryptocurrency scheme. Scott was accused of laundering millions of dollars through OneCoin.

Carl Smith was the subject of a final judgment by the SEC against him in connection with a scheme that raised at least $3.7 million from at least 37 investors. The scheme was run through Nanobeak Biotech Inc. and its former CEO, Jeremy Barbera

Paul Horton Smith Sr., 59, of California pleaded guilty to charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme that lasted nearly 20 years and took $24 million from at least 200 investors. Smith ran the alleged scheme through Northstar Communications LLC, Planning Services Inc., and eGate LLC. Smith represented that Northstar invested in real estate or the stock market but just invested money in a non-interest-bearing checking account,

Nicholas Trimble, of Colorado, was charged in connection with an alleged $3 million Ponzi scheme run as a luxury watch resale operation. Trimble was supposedly buying and selling luxury watches and turning a profit, but the several watches he actually purchased constituted just a small part of the funds he solicited.



Kenneth Charles Grace was found dead in a motel on the day he was due to be sentenced in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through his investment fund, Goldsky Global Access Fund. Approximately $24 million was invested on promises that he could generate returns of up to 20%.


Darryl Evans, 62, was sentenced to 8 years in prison following his conviction in connection with a scheme that he ran as a financial advisor. He told his clients that he was investing in algorithms and high-performing companies.

Estonia approved the extradition of Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turogin, Estonian citizens, to the United States. The two are cryptocurrency entrepreneurs who ran a $575 million Ponzi scheme through HashFlare and Polybius Bank. 


Julien Abat Weymouth, 21, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison in connection with a scheme that involved the exchanging and transferring of cryptocurrency. Assets worth about $13 million, mostly in bitcoin, were seized.


Nikhil Mahajan, 39, was arrested in connection with a scheme run through Singapore-based Variable Tech. The scheme brought in 40 bitcoins and was run with Ajay Bhardwaj.


Authorities flagged the following investment programs as potential Ponzi schemes: House of Forex / H. Flores Business Consultancy Services; Foto Trading International; HarvestCTMall; Crypace Limited/Crypace Financial Consultancy Services; DNKC Corp.; Gainz Philippines; S&M Ventures and Salon de Alexis.

Authorities warned against investing in The Tipsy Tavern, a bar and events-themed Ponzi scheme. The company is operated by Danielle Lance Alarcon, and investors were promised 120% per year.


A 23-year-old student in Hengelo was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded over 100 victims out of millions of euros in connection with a cryptocurrency scheme. He promised returns of up to 50% from his crypto bank. 


David Pan was arrested in connection with his involvement in an alleged cryptocurrency scam found through ACE Exchange. The trading platform is controlled by Michael C.H. Wang. Fourteen people were arrested in total in connection with the scheme, including Spencer Lin who was sentenced to 8 years in prison last year but just arrested. The losses are estimated to exceed $32 million.


Kivanç Talu and his wife Beril Talu were arrested at the airport on allegations that they were running a Ponzi scheme that involved 150 million Turkish Liras ($5.1 million). They promised returns of one and a half times within 40 days through a venture that involved creating advertising films for major corporations.


E-creator, a global e-commerce company, was exposed as a Ponzi scheme that lured investors with promises of high returns. Masterminds Thomas and Zhao used sim boxes with sim cards to manage transactions and used cryptocurrency to siphon off funds.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

The 2023 Year-End Ponzi Scheme Roundup

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps 

The Ponzi Scheme Blog tracks Ponzi scheme news reported on new Ponzi schemes, guilty pleas, criminal convictions, prison sentences and other relevant Ponzi scheme news. Every Ponzi scheme cannot be known, as many slip into the night quietly without ever even being reported to criminal or regulatory authorities, and many simply don’t make the news. As such, it is impossible to capture all of the news.

The unofficial tally of Ponzi scheme news in 2023, even knowing it is incomplete, is itself troubling in its scope. 

At least 115 new Ponzi schemes were reported in the news in 2023

Well over $4.5 billion was lost by victims in Ponzi schemes (49 of the 115 new schemes did not report dollar figures, so the actual number might well be double that amount, or more)

At least 32 people pleaded guilty to running Ponzi schemes

At least 7 were convicted following criminal trial

The average age of the Ponzi schemer is about 49 years old (mid-life crisis?)

All of this is a reminder to stay on high alert and conduct independently verifiable due diligence before investing. For sample questions to ask and due diligence ideas, check out Ponzi-Proof Your Investments: An Investor’s Guide to Avoid Investing in Ponzi Schemes and Other Financial Scams.