Ponzi Guilty Pleas In New York, Tennessee; New Ponzi Case Filed By CFTC In Florida; Relief Defendant Misspelled Its Own Company Name
EDITOR’S NOTE: There was significant action in Ponzi cases today. Earlier we reported on the guilty plea of Trevor Cook in Minnesota and the issuance of a bench warrant in South Carolina for Michael Derrick Peninger. The brief below summarizes action in the Ponzi and affinity-fraud case case of Steven Byers in New York, the Ponzi case of Barron A. Mathis in Tennessee, and new allegations of a Forex Ponzi scheme against Claudio Aliaga in Florida.
New York: Steven Byers, 47, of Oak Brook, Ill., pleaded guilty today to felony counts of conspiracy and wire fraud in a Ponzi case said to involve $255 million. U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who sentenced Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison, is the presiding judge in the case. Byers will be sentenced in September. He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Byers was the former president and chief executive officer WexTrust Capital LLC, a private-equity firm. Orthodox Jews were targeted in the scheme, which involved real estate and specialty finance.
“From at least 2003, Byers and others raised money from investors pursuant to private placement offerings and then used material amounts of that money for other purposes, and did not disclose their diversion of funds to investors,” prosecutors said. “In one such private placement, Byers and others raised approximately $9.2 million in investor funds by representing that the funds would be used to purchase and operate seven commercial properties that were leased to the United States General Services Administration (GSA).
“According to the GSA private placement memorandum issued to investors by WexTrust Capital,” prosecutors said, “the $9.2 million raised from investors, together with a mortgage of approximately $21 million, would be used to purchase the seven GSA properties and cover related acquisition expenses.
“The seven GSA properties, however, were never purchased. Instead, virtually all of the funds raised from investors to purchase the properties were diverted by Byers and others to other purposes, but investors were never informed that the funds were used for any purpose other than to purchase and operate the seven GSA properties. Byers and others later agreed to make up a story that they would then tell the GSA investors regarding what happened to their investment,” prosecutors said.
The guilty plea was entered as a result of a plea deal with prosecutors. Byers “agreed to forfeit $9.2 million and is subject to mandatory restitution and faces criminal fines up to twice the gross gain or loss derived from the offense,” prosecutors said.
Tennessee: In Nashville, Barron A. Mathis, 29, pleaded guilty to wire fraud. He formerly was vice president and portfolio manager for J.C. Reed & Co., a failed financial services company headquartered in Franklin.
Mathis sold his Ponzi and fraud scheme to friends, acquaintances and clients, collecting $11 million in the process, prosecutors said. Most of the investors were elderly, inexperienced traders.
â€œCases like these are egregious examples of predators who target vulnerable and innocent victims through false and fraudulent business practices,â€ said U. S. Attorney Edward M. Yarbrough. â€œBy his own admission, Mathis encouraged people to invest by falsely promising security, growth and inflated returns on their money, but instead the investors lost their savings as part of an elaborate fraud scheme.”
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Echols will sentence Mathis. A sentencing date has not been set.
Florida: Claudio Aliaga, of Davie, has been charged civilly by the CFTC with operating a commodity-pool and Forex Ponzi scheme that gathered $4.5 million.
Also charged was Aliaga’s company, CMA Capital Management LLC of Miami Lakes.
Named relief defendants were Aliaga’s wife, Betty Aliaga, and a company known as CMA Global Investement (sic) Fund LLC. The CFTC noted that the company misspelled its own name and “received funds as a result of defendantsâ€™ fraudulent conduct.”
U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke ordered an asset freeze.