United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A former schoolteacher faces federal charges for orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that took over $1 million from investor victims, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. A criminal bill of information filed on Monday, June 24, 2013, in U.S. District Court charged C. David Wright, 52, of Iron Station, N.C. with one count of mail fraud in connection with the Ponzi scheme.
Greg McLeod, Director of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and Keith Fixel, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
The filed criminal bill of information alleges that Wright engaged in a scheme and artifice to defraud victims by making a series of false and fraudulent representations, omissions of material facts and deceptive half-truths. According to information contained in the charging document, beginning in August 2008 and continuing through March 2013, Wright executed a Ponzi scheme by inducing victims to invest in a “Commodity Investment Group” based in Cherryville, N.C., which Wright purportedly managed. According to court documents on the record, Wright collected over $1 million from investor victims through false and fraudulent misrepresentations. Court records show that Wright lied to investors by promising a 20-30% return on their investments, over a short period of time, when Wright knew that this return was not possible. Wright also misled his victims by falsely representing to his victims that his Commodities Investment Group would invest money in hedge funds, commodities and Quick Trip stores. Court records indicate that Wright falsely told his victims that the Commodities Investment Group owned a significant number of Quick Trip gas stations and had even sold one for $1.6 million.
According to court records, Wright did not invest the over $1 million he collected from investor victims as promised. Instead, Wright used the money to make Ponzi style payments to other victims and to fund his personal lifestyle, according to court records. In some instances, as filed documents show, Wright took a large percentage of victim money immediately upon the initial deposit. Court records show that Wright was known to carry a significant amount of cash in a black duffel bag. Court records also show that Wright required many victims to invest by cashier’s check. Many local victims would invest by meeting Wright in a parking lot in Cherryville, while out-of-state victims would mail money for investment to Wright’s post office box in Cherryville. According to court documents, over $500,000 in principle owed to the victims has been misappropriated by Wright, and as of March 2013, Wright had less than $1,000 left of the investors’ fund. Wright has agreed to plead guilty to the mail fraud charge.
Wright’s initial appearance and plea hearing have not been set yet by the Court. At sentencing, Wright faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Wright has agreed to pay full restitution to his victims, the amount of which will be determined by the Court at sentencing.
In a related action, yesterday the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also filed a civil enforcement action against Wright.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case was investigated by USPIS and SBI. U.S. Attorney Tompkins also acknowledged the invaluable assistance of CFTC in this case.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt W. Meyers of the Western District of North Carolina.
The President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement 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. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.