Two Investment Advisers Convicted in California of High-Yield Investment Fraud

WASHINGTON—William J. Ferry, a former stock broker and investment adviser, and Dennis J. Clinton, a former real estate investment manager, were found guilty by a federal jury in Santa Ana, California today for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud a wealthy investor of $1 billion in a high-yield investment fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The investor was, in reality, part of an undercover FBI team that posed as wealthy investors and investment managers in an effort to stop fraudsters before they actually harmed victims.

“Mr. Ferry and Mr. Clinton tried to dupe undercover agents into believing their high-yield investment program would earn them extremely high rates of return,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “In fact, Ferry and Clinton were conspiring to steal their money, along with the money of trusting investors. Undercover operations are an integral part of our efforts to stop financial fraudsters before they wipe out the life savings of innocent victims. Based on today’s verdict, the defendants will now pay a heavy price for their conduct.”

Ferry, 70, of Newport Beach, California, and Clinton, 64, of San Diego, were each found guilty in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California of one count of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. They face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each fraud count. They will be sentenced on February 1, 2013.

Paul R. Martin, a former senior vice president and managing director of Bankers Trust, was found guilty in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for his role in the scheme in a separate trial on August 3, 2012. Martin, 63, of New Jersey, was convicted of one count of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. At sentencing, scheduled for February 1, 2013, Martin faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each fraud count.

On August 21, 2008, Ferry, Clinton, and Martin were indicted along with Oregon resident John Brent Leiske, Canadian citizen and resident Alex Chelak, Iowa resident Richard Arthur Pundt, California resident Brad Keith Lee, and Florida resident Ronald J. Nolte.

Evidence at trial established that, from February to December 2006, Ferry, Clinton, Martin, and others conspired to promote a high-yield investment fraud scheme promising an extremely high return at little or no risk to principal. The defendants claimed that their high-yield investment program (HYIP) was a “Fed trade program” regulated by the “Fed” (Federal Reserve Bank), that they had to follow strict Fed guidelines, and that a Fed trade administrator administered their program, with compliance duties handled by a Fed compliance officer.

Investors also were told that once they had passed compliance, they would become registered with the Fed in Washington, D.C. The defendants falsely represented to FBI undercover agents that they would arrange for them to meet a Federal Reserve official and/or the chairman of the board of a major U.S. bank to confirm the existence of the defendants’ HYIP. The defendants falsely claimed that these Fed investment programs existed primarily to generate funds for project funding and humanitarian purposes, such as Hurricane Katrina relief. They further falsely claimed that the promised profits from investing in a Fed program had to be divided, in equal amounts, with one portion going for some humanitarian purpose, another portion for some kind of project financing, and the remainder to the investor. The defendants represented to the undercover agents that the agents’ offshore bank account would be managed by a Swiss banker who was already managing billions of dollars for the defendants. In the scheme, Ferry acted as an underwriter and member of the compliance team; Martin acted as a banking expert; Clinton acted as a troubleshooter during the compliance phase and transfer of funds to the Swiss banker; Lee acted as the contact with the Swiss banker; and Leiske acted as the trader. Chelak is charged with having acted as a compliance officer.

On April 13, 2009, Lee pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. On January 11, 2010, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

Leiske’s case was transferred to the District of Oregon, where he pleaded guilty to all counts on January 24, 2012. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 19, 2012.

Nolte was acquitted today of all charges by a jury in the Central District of California. In August 2010, charges against Pundt were dismissed by the government.

Chelak remains a fugitive.

This continuing investigation is being conducted by the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney David Bybee and Trial Attorney Fred Medick of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.