Founder and Former CEO of Sustainable Fuel Company Pleads Guilty to Multimillion Dollar Embezzlement and Investor Fraud Scheme
A federal grand jury in Colorado returned an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday charging an Illinois woman and a Georgia man with running a Ponzi scheme that raised approximately $650 million from investors across the country.
According to court documents, Reva Joyce Stachniw, 69, of Galesburg, Illinois, and Ron Throgmartin, 57, of Buford, Georgia, were charged with running a Ponzi scheme, along with a third co-conspirator, Mark Ray, from late 2017 until early 2019. Ray was previously charged by criminal information for his role in the Ponzi scheme in the Central District of Illinois in February 2020.
According to the indictment, Stachniw, Throgmartin, and other co-conspirators solicited hundreds of millions of dollars from victim-investors throughout the United States. Most often, the conspirators fraudulently represented to victim-investors that their investments were backed by short-term investments in cattle. They also used false and fraudulent pretenses to solicit money from victim-investors for the conspirators’ Colorado-based marijuana business, Universal Herbs LLC. Other victim-investors gave the conspirators money based on false promises that investment money would be used for legitimate business activity related to cattle or marijuana, without having the investment money linked to specific investment opportunities.
In all three variations of the conspirators’ investment fraud scheme, victim-investors were promised returns of approximately 10% to 20% over periods as short as several weeks. At no point did Stachniw, Throgmartin, or Ray tell victim-investors that they were primarily using their money to repay other investors in a Ponzi-style investment scheme, or to enrich themselves. Stachniw and Throgmartin allegedly received millions of dollars from the scheme, despite putting little to none of their own money into it.
Stachniw and Throgmartin are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to engage in money transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. Stachniw and Throgmartin made their initial court appearance Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. If convicted, Stachniw and Throgmartin face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud, and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to engage in money transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge John Crawford of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) Chicago Regional Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office made the announcement.
The FDIC-OIG and the FBI are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Michael P. McCarthy of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.