FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2013
Fort Smith, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, and Randy Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of the Arkansas Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced today that Allen Frederick Wichtendahl, age 60, and Diana Stewart, age 49, both of Lowell, Arkansas, were indicted on charges of defrauding investors of over $1 million by collecting money payments in exchange for ownership in a purportedly lucrative business venture involving a Nigerian power plant and other projects. The 16-count indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Fort Smith.
As alleged in documents filed in court, Allen Wichtendahl solicited individuals to invest in an enterprise he called “New Vision Technology.” Investors would send Wichtendahl money payments in exchange for “parts” of the enterprise. His scheme began in Florida during the mid-1990s and continued when he moved to Northwest Arkansas in June 2009. Soon after arriving in Arkansas, Wichtendahl met Diana Stewart, and, in July 2009, Stewart began helping Wichtendahl in his scheme to defraud investors. Wichtendahl coaxed investors by representing that New Vision Technology sold products in Bulgaria and planned to build a power plant, sell tractors, and establish a cassava processing facility in Nigeria. Wichtendahl also established a misleading website and represented that he had made a $12 million capital investment in the company. From July 2009 to September 2012, Wichtendahl and Stewart collected over one million dollars from investors. The majority of this money was used to pay for Wichtendahl and Stewart’s personal expenses and to maintain the appearance of a legitimate business enterprise. Investors received nothing in return for their money.
As a result of various activities during the commission of their scheme, Wichtendahl was charged with three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, four counts of securities fraud, four counts of selling an unregistered security, and two counts of money laundering. Stewart was charged with aiding and abetting all 16 counts and will face the same penalties. They face the following maximum penalties for each count charged: (1) mail fraud—$250,000 fine and 20 years imprisonment; (2) wire fraud—$250,000 fine and 20 years imprisonment; (3) securities fraud—$5 million fine and 20 years imprisonment; (4) failure to register a security—$10,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment; (5) money laundering—$250,000 fine (or twice the amount of criminally derived property) and 10 years imprisonment.
United States Attorney Eldridge stated “As this case and others demonstrate, it is a priority for our office to investigate and prosecute those who swindle investors out of their hard-earned money by fraud and deceit.”
"Today's indictment demonstrates the continued commitment of the FBI and our law enforcement partners to identify and root out investment fraud schemes," stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Randall C. Coleman. "We will continue to work together to aggressively investigate those who choose to participate in these fraud schemes - no matter how elaborate - which deprive our citizens of their hard-earned dollars."
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; Rogers, Arkansas, Police Department; and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Kyra Jenner represented the United States.
The charges in an indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless or until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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