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January 2020 Ponzi Scheme Roundup

February 10, 2020 (6 min read)

Posted by Kathy Bazoian Phelps

Below is a summary of the activity reported for January 2020. The reported stories reflect at least 5 new Ponzi schemes worldwide; at least 5 guilty pleas and convictions, over 24 years of newly imposed sentences for people involved in Ponzi schemes; and an average age of approximately 52 for the alleged Ponzi schemers. Please feel free to post comments about these or other Ponzi schemes that I may have missed.  

Malik Akbar’El aka Tyrone David Williams aka Skipper David Williams, 52, of Arkansas, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. He ran the alleged scheme through Akbar Williams & Associates Legal Services Corporation and promised 300% to 480% returns from supposed investments in charities and organizations that would generate a profit. He allegedly defrauded 252 investors.

Bitmain was asked to suspend its IPO due to its connection with the BitClub Ponzi scheme. Bitmain sold mining equipment to BitClub, which defrauded victims out of over $722 million.

Kari M. Bracy was barred by FINRA from engaging in securities transactions in light of her involvement with Future Income Payments. Bracy sold investments in the scheme that recruited pension holders, including veterans of the armed forces. Investors were defrauded out of about $300 million.

Hal H. Brown Jr., 70, of North Carolina, pleaded guilty to running a $22 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 23 victims. The scheme was run through Oodles Inc. Brown misrepresented that Oodles owned hundreds of millions of dollars in intellectual property and presented investors with false financial information and documentation.

Jeff Carpoff , 49, and Paulette Carpoff, 46, pleaded guilty to charges brought in connection with the $1 billion Ponzi scheme run through DC Solar Solutions. The scheme offered investors huge federal tax incentives to lease mobile solar generators typically used at racetracks and concert venues or to power remote cell phone towers during power outages. They used investor funds “to support a lavish lifestyle, which included payment for more than 150 luxury and collector vehicles, luxury real estate in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, the Caribbean, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and elsewhere, a suite at a professional football stadium, a private jet service, gambling, jewelry, and other personal property.”

Kenneth D. Courtright III, 49, of Illinois, was accused by the SEC or running a Ponzi-like scheme that raised more than $75 million from more than 500 investors through his company, Todays Growth Consultant Inc. Courtright is the owner of The Income Store through which he promised investors annual returns of up to 20% per year forever in return for a six-figure upfront fee used to build and operate websites.

Michael J. DaCorta, 55, was charged in connection with the Ponzi scheme run through Oasis International Group Ltd. DaCorta allegedly defrauded about 700 investors investors out of $72 million, but he has entered a plea of not guilty. Oasis president Joseph S. Anile II pleaded guilty to the scheme last year and is cooperating with authorities.

Andres Fernandez, 38, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection with a scheme that defrauded at least 81 people out of $14.98 million. Fernandez solicited investors to invest in concerts that his company, Kadaee Entertainment, helped produce. Fernandez promised investors that they could double their money and he promised them free tickets to concerts. He showed his clients fake contracts and spent the funds largely on his personal expenses and to pay earlier investors.

Guy Griffithe and Robert Russell were charged by the SEC with fraudulently selling fake interests in a cannabis company called SMRB. The sales took place through two firms controlled by Griffithe, Renewable Technologies Solution and Green Acres Pharms. The scheme defrauded at least 25 investors out of $4.85 million.

Ryan Guidry, 43, pleaded guilty to participating in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of $1 billion. The scheme was run through DC Solar and sold solar generators mounted on trailers to be used for emergency power for cellphone companies or to provide lighting and sporting and other events. Joseph W. Bayliss, 44, Ronald J. Roach, and Robert A. Karmann, 53, each previously pleaded guilty to related charges.

Edward Matthes was accused of running a Ponzi-like investment scheme that defrauded investors in Wisconsin out of $2.4 million. The SEC alleged that he defrauded 26 people, who were mostly elderly brokerage customers, by promising them returns of 4% in safe investments.

Robert Menard, a Milwaukee attorney was accused of running a Ponzi scheme and stealing about $250,000 from his clients.

Robert C. Morgan was ordered to pay back more than $63 million to defrauded investors. The SEC obtained the order after charging Morgan with fraudulently raising money from more than 200 investors, promising them a return of 11%. Morgan owned multi-family properties but he ordered employees to falsify financial documents to get larger loans on the acquisition of the properties.

Gerald Ortiz of Colorado was ordered to pay $1.2 billion in restitution by the Colorado Division of Securities. Ortiz, through his company, Colorado Retirement Specialists LLC sold unlicensed securities from Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC. Woodbridge was charged by the SEC with operating a Ponzi scheme.

Steven Pagartanis, 60, was sentenced to 14 years and 2 months in prison and ordered to pay $6.5 million in restitution in connection with a Ponzi scheme that spanned 18 years and scammed 17 victims. Pagartanis solicited elderly victims to invest in real estate-related investments and promised returns of between 4.5% to 8%. Investors were told that their money was being invested in a publicly traded Canadian company called Genesis Land Development. Instead, he used the money to pay for his personal expenses and on luxury items such a jewelry, airline tickets, massages and cigars.

Christopher Parris, 39, of New York was accused of running a Ponzi scheme with Perry Santillo, using their business, Lucian Development. They are accused of defrauded almost 1,000 investors out of at least $115,500,000. Santillo pleaded guilty last year.

Jason Rhodes, 47, of Connecticut, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a scheme to defraud approximately 25 investors in Sentinel Growth Fund Management LLC. The scheme solicited about $19.6 million into a hedge fund by promising returns from investments in securities. Sentinel co-founder, Mark Varacchi, previously pleaded guilty to the scheme.

Steve Schwartz, 76, was accused of assisting an alleged $287 million Ponzi scheme run through 1 Global Capital LLC. The investment program purported to offer short-terms loans at high interest rates to small and medium-sized businesses.

Landon M. Smith, of Utah, settled with the SEC and agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in disgorgement and interest. Smith was sentenced to 3 months in prison in connection with a scheme that defrauded over 50 investors out of $2.5 million. Smith represented that he was a real estate wholesaler who would use investor funds to purchase and then resell properties.



Cease and desist orders were entered against 5 investment companies that were promising large returns. Rigen Marketing, offered returns of up to 400%; Ever Arm Marketing, offered returns of up to 400%; Organico Agribusiness offered returns of up to 66.67% percent return after 90 days; and Kapa Community Ministry International Inc. offered 30% monthly “blessing or love gift” per month on donation for life.


Orhan Tath and Irfan Alkan were accused of running a scheme through Sutbank, or Milk Bank, that defrauded about 1,300 people. The scheme offered investors returns from investing in the purchase of five cows and receiving monthly payments from the sale of milk from the cows.


More than 5,000 victims have appealed for a refund of money they invested in Dunamiscoin Resource Ltd., a cryptocurrency scheme that has been alleged to be running a Ponzi scheme and that was shut down last year. The scheme promised returns of 30% to 40% in a short period.