FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC at 410-209-4885
October 27, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ELKTON MAN CONVICTED IN INVESTMENT FRAUD
AND CREDIT CARD SCHEME
Induced More Than 70 Individuals to Invest Over $600,000
in a Securities Fraud Scheme
BALTIMORE, Maryland - A federal jury today convicted Mark E. Phillips, also known as Mark Le Roy Aaron, age 43, of Elkton, Maryland on thirty-five counts of securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and credit card fraud, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. In addition, the jury entered a special verdict for the forfeiture of $618,000.
The evidence presented during the four-week trial included documents and records seized by U.S. Postal Inspectors during a search warrant conducted at Phillips’ residence in July 2003, documents subpoenaed from numerous financial institutions, and fingerprint evidence from the Postal Inspection Service Forensics Laboratories. It showed that in 2000, Phillips founded Phydea Equity Fund, LLC, headquartered at his residence in Elkton, Maryland. As chief executive officer of Phydea, Phillips managed and controlled the money invested in Phydea.
From April 2000 to August 2003, Phillips recruited investors by advertising over the Internet and in business periodicals. He persuaded investors to join Phydea by claiming fantastic, but fictitious, rates of return on his stock-picking methods. Phillips did not disclose to investors that he had previously filed for bankruptcy seven times. Nor did he disclose that he was not registered with the State of Maryland as a broker dealer or investment advisor, as required by state law. Phillips tricked more than 70 investors, including his elderly parents, into investing more than $600,000 in Phydea.
Phillips spent at least $90,000 of investor money on personal items such as dental work, jewelry, his residential mortgage, music equipment, department store purchases, his bankruptcy trustee, and trash removal.
He also opened investment accounts at E-Trade, TD Waterhouse and Ameritrade in his name and day-traded with investor money using a computerized stock-picking system that he developed. Phillips lost several hundred thousand dollars of investor money, but did not disclose this to investors. At the same time that he was spending Phydea money on himself and losing it through day-trading he was sending the investors monthly statements showing strong rates of returns.
Relying on these statements, investors made additional investments in Phydea. Phillips also sent investors annual K1 tax forms showing phantom earnings, which investors relied on when filing their tax returns. In June 2003, Phillips sent statements to investors showing that Phydea had a total value of over $900,000 when in reality the true value of Phydea was less than zero.
The evidence at trial also showed that Phillips fraudulently opened credit card accounts in his father’s name at American Express, First USA (now Chase) and Discover. He used these cards to purchase high-end music equipment, expensive telescope equipment, a hot tub, exercise equipment, home and garden equipment, and other personal items. Phillips also made tens of thousands of dollars in cash advances for gambling at casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Phillips’ conduct ruined his father’s credit history and cost the three credit card companies over $130,000 in losses.
Phillips faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine for securities fraud, 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each mail and wire fraud count, and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of credit card fraud. No sentencing date has yet been scheduled.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and its Forensic and Technical Service Laboratories. Mr. Rosenstein also thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul M. Tiao and Joyce K. McDonald, who are prosecuting the case.
This page last modifiedOctober 27, 2006