United States Citizen Extradited to Los Angeles From Tonga to Face Investment Fraud Charges
LOS ANGELES – A U.S. citizen who formerly resided in Turlock, California, and Auckland, New Zealand, was returned to the United States by Tonga and is expected to appear in court today to face federal investment fraud charges.
Antone Thomas Pedras, who also went by Chris Pedras, 64, arrived at LAX last Friday in the custody of the United States Marshals Service. Pedras was returned to the United States to face eleven counts of wire fraud in connection with several fraudulent investment schemes.
In a first superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on August 6, 2014, Pedras is charged with inducing investors to give money to “Maxum Gold Trade Program,” which he claimed was a “low-risk investment with monthly returns ranging between 4 to 8 percent.” Pedras is also charged with soliciting investments in the “FMP Renal Program,” which he claimed “would be publicly traded and would operate kidney dialysis clinics in New Zealand.” To bolster his false claims to his investors, Pedras created false account statements for the Maxum website, www.maxumgoldbnkpcpt.com.
“Those who commit fraud against residents of the United States will not escape punishment simply by residing overseas,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This case and the extradition demonstrate the commitment of the Department of Justice to holding responsible for their actions criminals both here and outside of the country who commit fraud against U.S. residents.”
If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Pedras faces a statutory maximum sentence of 220 years in prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
"The FBI is committed to investigating complex high-yield investment schemes," said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. "As the return of Mr. Pedras makes clear, we are also committed to seeking justice for victims within the U.S. and beyond its borders."
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a parallel civil case against Pedras.
The investigation into Pedras is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ivy Wang of the Santa Ana office.