Subscribe to LexTalk to stay on top of today’s legal issue and trends.
Catapult Your Career |
Industry Insights & Trends |
Product Training & Tips
Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps
Below is a summary of the activity reported for June 2016. The reported stories reflect: 4 guilty pleas or convictions in pending cases; over 39 years of newly imposed sentences for people involved in Ponzi schemes; at least 14 new Ponzi schemes worldwide; and an average age of approximately 59 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed. And please remember that I am just relaying what’s in the news, not writing or verifying it.
Charles E. Bennett, 57, was disbarred from the Bar of the State of New York. Matter of Bennett, 2016 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4176 (Sup. NY, June 2, 2016). Bennett is a former corporate lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison for running a $5 million Ponzi scheme. Bennett had left a suicide note before trying to kill himself which revealed the scheme that defrauded 30 friends and family members. Bennett survived the suicide attempt.
Andrew Caspersen, 39, was indicted on allegations that he ran a $40 million Ponzi scheme over an 18 month period. Caspersen pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming that he had uncontrollable gambling addiction. Caspersen told the judge that he had been treated for “compulsive gambling and mental health illness.” He is expected to plead guilty next month.
Thomas J. Connerton, 64, was charged by the SEC with defrauding 50 people, including 6 women that he met on an online dating site, to invest in his surgical glove company, Safety Technologies LLC. Connerton claimed that his company was developing a material to make surgical gloves more resistant to cuts or punctures and that major glove manufacturers wanted the technology.
Charles Leif Erickson, 73, was sentenced to 2 years in prison and ordered to pay about $1.6 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme that he carried out on members of the church in which he was a pastor. He had 25 investors invest $3.5 million into the scheme and promised them 96% returns over a two year period. Court records show that “Erickson believed that the Holy Spirit had given him a proprietary system for day trading a particularly volatile type of futures contract.”
Eduardo Galan, 65, was sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection with a $1 million Ponzi scheme. Galan ran a financial services business called S&G Unlimited Services as a registered securities broker. He represented that he was investing funds in private mortgage transactions.
Bobby Hamby, 56, was sentenced to 4 years in prison in connection with a $2 million Ponzi scheme that he operated. Hamby is a chiropractor who solicited funds from investors in a real estate scheme that he ran through B+E Family Investments LLC. The scheme defrauded at least 22 investors, falsely assuring them that their investments would be secure because he would put their names on the property deeds. Hamby also fraudulently solicited funds to supposedly finance laser equipment for his chiropractic office, but only about $5,000 of the $150,000 collected was actually used on the equipment.
Allen Hess, 51, rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 10 to 30 years for his role in an alleged $600,000 Ponzi scheme. Hess is accused of soliciting investors to invest in “foreign oil.” He remains in jail with no bail.
John Holdaway, 72, and Kevin Kyes, 68, were indicted on charges that they ran a $7 million Ponzi scheme. The indictment alleges that they ran a scheme that targeted Japanese investors, offering them the opportunity to invest in a group of entities referred to as “Money Management Strategies.” The investors were promised 100% annual returns from currency and derivatives trading and were told their principal would be safe because their money would never leave the bank accounts and that any trading losses would be borne by Money Management Strategies.
Joseph J. Lampariello, 62, was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay nearly $40 million in restitution in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through Medical Capital Holdings that defrauded more than 700 investors. Lampariello was the president and chief operating officer. Another former executive of the company, Sidney Field, reached a settlement with the SEC and agreed to pay $2.8 million, but he was not charged criminally.
Ronald Mason, 47, pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded 5 investors out of more than $625,000. Mason had previously served a prison term in connection with a $30 million Ponzi scheme that he had run with Scott Farah and Donald Dodge through Financial Resources Management. When Mason was released from prison he contacted more than 100 investors that Farah and Dodge had previously defrauded, inviting them to invest in the construction and sale of condominiums.
Ronald Earl McCullough, 44, is wanted by the FBI in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme that defrauded mostly Christian victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The FBI announced that it is offering a $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of McCullough, who has been on the lam for nearly 3 years. David Christopher Mayhew, 43, who ran the scheme with McCullough, was sentenced to 26 years in prison in January.
Randy Miland, 62, was indicted for allegedly running a $575, 000 Ponzi scheme that defrauded clients of his chiropractor business and other investors. Miland had previously been convicted of running a different Ponzi scheme in 1999 related to an alleged deal he had with Blockbuster, and he was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution, which he did not pay. Miland served a 55 month prison sentence for the 1999 conviction and in 2004 he pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges that got him a 41 month prison sentence.
Ash Narayan, an investment advisor, was charged by the SEC with running a Ponzi-like scheme. He allegedly defrauded several athletes such as Jake Peavy of the Giants, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, and retired Astors pitcher Roy Oswalt out of $30.4 million. The SEC also named The Ticket Reserve aka Forward Market Media, Inc., Richard M. Harmon and John A. Kaptrosky in its complaint, alleging that Narayan transferred more than $33 million to The Ticket Reserve without the investors’ knowledge.
Haena Park, 40, was charged by the SEC with running an alleged Ponzi scheme using a futures and foreign currency trading strategy. Park was a Harvard graduate who solicited more than 30 friends, family and former Harvard classmates through her companies, Phaetra Capital GP and its predecessor, Argenta Capital. She raised at least $23 million from the investors. Criminal charges were also filed against Park this month.
Scott Richard Rookus, 45, was charged with running a $1.5 million Ponzi scheme through his company, New Haven Holdings. The scheme allegedly defrauded at least 9 investors.
Malcolm Segal, 70, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $3.2 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme. Segal falsely promised his brokerage customers that the FDIC-insured CDs he was selling would generate higher interest than CDs available to the general public.
John Sposato, 64, pleaded guilty to charges relating to an alleged Ponzi scheme that he ran through numerous companies, including Pegasus Investment & Development Corporation, LLC; Pegasus Investments; Oil Eaters, LLC; Organic Miracle Incorporation; S&J Corporate Properties, LLC; Pegasus Demolition & Debris Removal Service, LLC; and Pegasus Truck Lines, Inc. Nearly 50 people invested about $811,000 in the schemes that involved international bank instruments, cutting edge oil remediation and recovery products, and real estate transactions.
Jerry Stauffer, 68, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for running a $1.8 million Ponzi scheme. The scheme defrauded about 15 people by promising them 5% returns. Stauffer was an expert in foreign currency who taught at a community college, but he did not actually invest the funds.
Lawrence Paul “Larry” Stephens, 53, pleaded guilty to securities fraud in connection with a $4.75 million Ponzi scheme he ran while using somebody else’s certified public accountant license. Stephens solicited funds for the “Black Canyon Project” which was supposedly a toll road that was going to be built in Orange County, California. No toll road was ever actually planned.
Jack Utsick, 73, an ex-concert promoter through his companies, Worldwide Entertainment Inc. and Entertainment Group Fund Inc. pleaded guilty to charges relating to an alleged $200 million Ponzi scheme. Utsick allegedly defrauded 3,300 investors in connection with his promotion of tours by artists such as The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, The Pretenders and Aerosmith. In 2014, Utsick was extradited to the U.S. from Brazil where he had fled in 2007.
INTERNATIONAL PONZI SCHEME NEWS
The trustee administering the bankruptcy case of Virginia Mary Tan, 64, and her husband Patrick Eng Tien Tan, 73, filed a first report showing that the Tans have liabilities of $46.54 million and assets of $2.55 million. The Tans have been accused of running a $40 million Ponzi scheme, which has not yet been established, and the trustee says the scheme involved 177 investors. Investors were promised 12% to 24% interest in connection with the payday loan business and other finance investments.
The receiver for Banners Broker International reported that the scheme’s pitchman, Kuldip Josun, embezzled at least $3.6 million from an MLM program known as KulClub and used the funds for his own personal purposes.
Police detained Rajib Behera, an agent of Flourish India Limited, on allegations that investor had been defrauded of over Rs 100 crore through its 132 branches over the last 8 years.
Pravesh Chander Rout was arrested in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme involving Rs 230 crore.
Three directors of Oscar chit fund company, Tara Prasad Hota, Kirti Bstia and Abani Patnaik, were arrested.
The government moved to confiscated properties from Vista Management Services Ltd. The managing director of the firm, Deb Kumar Panda, was arrested last year on larges that the company defrauded investors out of at least Rs 50 crore.
Kamalsinh Parmar, 35, was arrested and the alleged Ponzi scheme run through Krishna Serva Vikas Trust was shut down. The scheme allegedly defrauded 6,000 investors out of Rs 75 crore.
Terrence Kenji Ito, Theodore Yuji Ito, Aldus Renier Tubiera, Joanary Roxas, and Jake Ryu Oprecio were charged on allegations that they were running a second Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of P500 million. The defendants are executives of One Lightening Corp. and are already the subject of a cease and desist order, but they began offering and selling investment contracts through a new company, FDS Forward Direct Selling Corp.
Colin Davids, 48, was arrested on charges that he was running a Ponzi scheme through Platinum Forex Group. The assets of the company were frozen about a year ago but Davids denied any wrongdoing. The scheme promised returns of between 48% and 84%. Davids is a pastor at New Direction Grace Ministries in Cape Town.
Big Buxx Swaziland and Empowerment Gener were revealed to be two new Ponzi schemes that appear to have taken the place of the failed MMM scheme from South Africa.
NEWSWORTHY LEGAL ISSUES IN PENDING PONZI SCHEME CASES
Customers of the now defunct cryptocurrency mining company, GAW Minors, filed a lawsuit against the company as well as ZenMiner, Homero Joshua Garza, and Stuart Fraser. The lawsuit alleges fraud and Ponzi scheme in connection with the company’s mining services and its cryptocurrency, paycoin.
The trustee of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme reached a revised agreement with the owners of the New York Mets, including Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, that gives them more time to pay the $61 million settlement. The original settlement amount of $162 million had been reduced to $61 million due to a formula tied to how much the trustee had paid to victims. The $61 million was to be paid in two installments, the first of which was due this month. Wilpon, Katz, and their partners at Sterling Equities now have to pay $16 million this month and the balance will be divided into four installments.
The bankruptcy court presiding over the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC case approved a seventh distribution to Madoff customers, bringing their total recovery to $9.45 billion.
The receiver of Nationwide Automated Systems Inc. filed a lawsuit against City National Bank, Royal Bank of Canada and Patrick Fitzwilliam, a senior vice president and branch manager, alleging that they aided and abetted NASI’s Ponzi scheme. The complaint alleges that the bank failed to report suspicious activity which “screamed that fraud was afoot” and that Fitzwilliam soothed investors’ fears by making false representations to investors.
Defendant Dwayne Jones, an alleged net winner in connection with the TelexFree Ponzi scheme, counterclaimed against the trustee who sued him, seeking damages for emotional distress and attorneys’ fees and costs. Jones had allegedly received $561,000 in profits and is one of about 100,000 defendants in a class action filed by the trustee against net winners.
The TelexFree trustee sought a stay of his lawsuit against Gerald Nehra and the law firm of Nehra and Waak at the request of the United States. The Department of Justice requested the stay to that the lawsuit would not interfere with the government’s criminal case against James Merrill, one of the principals of TelexFree.
The court presiding over the Thomas Petters bankruptcy case ruled that actual intent to hinder, delay and defraud creditors can be inferred if the transfers made were caught up “in the main churn of a Ponzi scheme,” despite a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling last year (Finn v. Alliance Bank, 860 N.W.2d 638 (Minn. 2015)) that declined to allow the use of the Ponzi scheme presumption. Kelley v. Opportunity Finance, LLC (In re Petters Company, Inc.), 2016 Bankr. LEXIS 2169 (Bankr. D. Minn. May 31, 2016).
Morgan Stanley agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to FINRA