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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Department of Justice

United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – A federal grand juryin Chattanooga recently returned a 19-count indictment against Salih Acarbulut, a Turkish national who formerly resided in Chattanooga, Tenn., charging him with wire fraud and money laundering. The indictment alleges Acarbulut defrauded more than 100 victims of at least $12 million. No date has been set for his appearance in Chattanooga or for trial.

Acarbulut is a fugitive and believed to have left the United States. Any information as to his whereabouts should be provided to the U.S. Secret Service at 423-752-5125 or to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 423-855-6081.

The indictment alleges that Acarbulut devised a so-called Ponzi scheme from at least as early as 2005 and continuing until about May 2008, which was headquartered in Chattanooga. A Ponzi scheme promises investors exorbitant returns on their money. Initial investors receive large returns which come not from true profits, but from other investor’s funds. Later investors are duped by these false returns, invest, and are ultimately defrauded of their money. In this case, Acarbulut allegedly represented himself to be an experienced and successful foreign currency trader. He guaranteed up to a 48% annual return, paid monthly, on investments. Through this scheme the indictment alleges Acarbulut stole at least $12 million from his investors.

The indictment also charges that Acarbulut promoted the scheme by conducting financial transactions with funds from his crime, that is, money laundering. Criminally derived proceeds were also spent in amounts over $10,000. Each of these transactions constitutes a separate violation of the money laundering statute.

If convicted on all counts, the defendant faces a total of 330 years in prison and $6 million in fines. The maximum penalty for each violation of the wire fraud statute is 20 years in prison and a $250,00 fine. The maximum penalty for each count of promoting the scheme through money laundering is a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both. The maximum penalty for each count of laundering criminally derived proceeds is ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution may also be ordered to any victims of the fraud.

This investigation was conducted bythe IRS Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney GaryS. Humble represents the United States.

The public is reminded that an indictment is a form of accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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