Raleigh Investment Advisor Convicted on Twenty Counts of Investment Fraud
RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that a federal jury has convicted STEPHEN CONDON PETERS, 45, of Raleigh, North Carolina, on multiple counts of investment fraud. PETERS was convicted of:
- one count – Investment Advisor Fraud;
- one count – Fraud in the Sale of Unregistered Securities;
- nine counts – Wire Fraud;
- four counts – Engaging in Monetary Transactions in Criminally Derived Property;
- one count – Corruptly Endeavoring to Influence a Federal Agency;
- one count – Aggravated Identity Theft;
- one count – Conspiracy to Make and Use False Documents and to Falsify and Conceal Records;
- one count – Making and Using False Documents; and,
- one count – Falsifying and Concealing Documents During an SEC Examination.
The jury also found that PETERS was to forfeit multiple assets for the benefit of victims, including: his primary residence (known as “Whispering Hope Farm”), his luxury vacation home in Costa Rica (known as “House of the Beloved Princess”), the financial accounts tied to the fraud he committed, and numerous watches and firearms.
United States Attorney Higdon commented, “When people put their trust in a financial advisor, they expect honesty and professionalism. Instead, Mr. Peters violated that trust and breached his fiduciary duties for his own personal gain. This simply will not be tolerated. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to partner with local, state, and federal law enforcement to vigorously enforce federal law in order to protect the citizens of Eastern North Carolina.”
"Stephen Peters abused his position and defrauded clients who trusted him with their life savings. This is a case about greed and abuse of trust. The FBI will continue to work with our partners to ensure this kind of malicious behavior is investigated and prosecuted. Mr. Peters will now face serious consequences for his fraudulent actions,” said John Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina.
The original Indictment, issued in December of 2017, charged PETERS with one count of Investment Advisor Fraud; one count of Fraud in the Sale of Unregistered Securities; nine counts of Wire Fraud; four counts of Engaging in Monetary Transactions in Criminally Derived Property; and one count of Corruptly Endeavoring to Influence a Federal Agency. Read more
A Superseding Indictment was subsequently filed which included four additional charges: one count of Aggravated Identity Theft; one count of Conspiracy to Make and Use False Documents and to Falsify and Conceal Records; one count of Making and Using False Statements and Documents; and, one count of Falsifying and Concealing Documents During an SEC Examination. The Superseding Indictment also included additional assets to be forfeited upon conviction. Read more
The jury heard evidence that, as stated in the Superseding Indictment, beginning in 2009, and continuing into 2017, PETERS orchestrated the sale of VisionQuest Capital LLC promissory notes (the “Capital LLC Notes”), primarily to VisionQuest Wealth Management LLC clients. In exchange for an investment of funds, the Capital LLC Notes purported to promise investors an 8% or 9% annual return on principal over a five year term. In connection with the sale of the Capital LLC Notes, PETERS represented and caused to be represented to investors that the Capital LLC Notes were a low risk investment, and that the note proceeds would be invested into revenue generating or income-producing businesses. In fact, PETERS stole large portions of the investor proceeds and carried out a "Ponzi" scheme on investors.
PETERS, both directly and through his staff at VisionQuest Wealth Management, LLC, forged, fabricated, and concealed documents and records in an effort to thwart an examination by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in late 2016. Additionally, PETERS forged and backdated a letter to his former compliance officer purporting to place the burden of disclosing PETERS’ conflicts of interest upon the compliance officer. PETERS further directed the fabrication of numerous other records given to the SEC examiners, including client balance sheets, wealth management contracts, outside business activity disclosures, and internal compliance memoranda.
At sentencing, PETERS faces the following penalties: Investment Advisor Fraud, not more than 5 years imprisonment; Fraud in the Sale of Unregistered Securities, five years imprisonment; Wire Fraud, twenty years imprisonment per count; Engaging in Monetary Transactions in Criminally Derived Property, ten years imprisonment per count; Corruptly Endeavoring to Influence a Federal Agency, five years imprisonment; Aggravated Identity Theft, not less or more than 2 years imprisonment, consecutive to any other sentence imposed; Conspiracy to Make and Use False Documents and to Falsify and Conceal Records, not more than 5 years imprisonment; Making False Statements and Documents, not more than 5 years imprisonment; and, Falsifying and Concealing Documents During an SEC Examination, not more than 20 years imprisonment. Additionally, PETERS faces up to $1 Million in additional fines, as well as further forfeiture of property.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represents the United States.