Silver Spring Owner of “Advertising Investment” Companies Pleads Guilty in $6.2 Million Fraud Scheme
Fraudulently Obtained Millions from Over 60 Investors in Two Year Period
Greenbelt, Maryland - Edward J. Lawson, age 67, of Silver Spring, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud in connection with a $6.2 million fraudulent investment scheme.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
“Edward J. Lawson’s promises of ‘automatic revenue’ and ‘guaranteed results’ were entirely fraudulent,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Investors should be wary of investment opportunities that seem too good to be true.”
“In financial fraud schemes the promoter eventually runs out of other people's money and the scheme collapses like a house of cards," said IRS Acting Special Agent In Charge Jeannine Hammett.
According to his plea, Lawson was the president of “Automated Revenue Creation LLC” and “Guaranteed Results Advertising, LLC” (collectively, GRA). GRA’s investment literature stated that it was in the business of providing advertising through “Narrow Cast television commercials,” purportedly consisting of advertising displayed on LCD television monitors located at convenience stores and gas station pumps.
From May 2006 to September 2008, Lawson made presentations to potential GRA investors at hotels in the Washington, D.C. metro area and at a GRA office in Rockville, Maryland. In the early stages of GRA, an investor who purchased a screen for $15,800 was guaranteed a monthly return over a 10 year period that began at $3,000 and escalated to approximately $30,000 after 15 months. Later in the scheme, an investor who purchased a screen for $23,800 was guaranteed a monthly return of $3,000 and escalated to approximately $15,000 after 12 months. In GRA’s final phase, an investor who purchased a screen for $89,800 was guaranteed a monthly return of $13,950 over a five or 10 year period.
Lawson made several misrepresentations in soliciting GRA investors, including that: Lawson had over 30 years experience as an entrepreneur; Lawson had invested approximately $1.5 million of his own money into GRA; at all times, the GRA screens were generating sufficient revenue to meet the revenue projections promised to investors; the screens were generating so much revenue that Lawson encouraged investors to reinvest their earnings rather than cash out; advertisers had provided checks representing payments to GRA, which Lawson distributed at investor meetings; and Lawson had issued payments to investors via checks, which bounced due to conditions beyond Lawson’s control.
As a result of the scheme, GRA received at least $6.2 million in investments from over 60 investors.
Lawson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million or twice the gain or loss associated with the offense, whichever is greater. As part of his plea agreement, Lawson agrees to the entry of an order of restitution and forfeiture for the full amount of the victims’ losses, which will be determined prior to sentencing. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus scheduled sentencing for April 6 , 2012 at 10:00 a.m.
This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the FBI and IRS-CI for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Su, who is prosecuting the case.