Arizona Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice in Ron Wilson Ponzi Case
Contact Person: Bill Watkins (864) 282-2100
COLUMBIA, SC – United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Benton T. Hall, age 22, of Mesa, Arizona, has entered a guilty plea in federal court in Greenville, to conspiracy to obstruct justice, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Greenville accepted the plea and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
This case arose out of the Ron Wilson silver Ponzi scheme. Benton T. Hall was a co-conspirator with Wallace Lindsey Howell, who has pled guilty to wire fraud charges and is awaiting sentencing. Howell recommended Wilson=s investment program to numerous people and received Acommissions@ from Wilson for investors he brought in. The indictment charging Howell focused on two clients introduced to Wilson=s investment scheme by Howell.
In April 2006, Atlantic Bullion & Coin statements showed these two clients made a profit because of silver trades that Wilson allegedly had made. (Of course, Wilson never made any real trades for any of his clients and was, in fact, operating a ponzi scheme.) Howell told Wilson that since the two clients belonged to Howell, Wilson should put the profits earned in a separate account in Howell=s name. Wilson agreed to help Howell steal money from the two investors. On April 26, 2006, Wilson opened an account per Howell=s instructions and put $475,000 worth of profits in that account. In interviews with Secret Service agents, Wilson admitted that the trades for these two Howell clients would be left off their statements so they would be unaware a trade had occurred. Their numbers of Aounce ownership@ would remain constant. Wilson further confirmed that from April 2006 to the March 2012, Howell received account credit for $6,264,960 in profits that should have been credited to the two Howell clients.
Acting on instructions received from Howell, Atlantic Bullion & Coin transferred almost $800,000 to a real estate seller to purchase farm property for Howell located in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. Howell never invested any of his own money with Wilson.
Once Howell learned that Secret Service was investigating and that Wilson would be charged, he sought assistance from Benton T. Hall and others in hiding assets that had been acquired with Ponzi money. Howell was afraid that the federal receiver working to marshal assets related to the Wilson Ponzi fraud would “claw back” this assets so they could be distributed to the victims of the Ponzi scheme.
Howell transferred to Benton T. Hall and others approximately $1.5 million in property, gold and silver coins, equipment, and cash. Benton T. Hall then worked to hide this money from the federal receiver and law enforcement.
Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty Benton T. Hall can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, plus a special assessment of $100.
The case was investigated by agents of the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.