Day Trader Sentenced for Investment Fraud Scheme
POCATELLO - Michael Justin Hoopes, 41, of Rexburg, Idaho, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, including 200 hours of community service, for wire fraud and monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Hoopes to pay $620,000 in restitution. Hoopes pleaded guilty on February 24, 2015.
According to the plea agreement, Hoopes admitted that from 2007, through February of 2011, he engaged in a scheme to defraud investors in various investment opportunities he offered. Specifically, Hoopes solicited investors to provide him with capital he represented he would use in his commodities futures day trading activities and to invest in Connected Lyfe, a publicly traded company.
Hoopes misrepresented to investors that he earned returns day trading in excess of 20 to 25 percent, that he would invest all of the capital they provided in day trading and pay them from the profits generated by their investments, and he would receive personal compensation only from profits he made above the 20 to 25 percent return. Hoopes provided false monthly account statements to investors documenting the purported positive returns. Further, regarding Connected Lyfe, Hoopes misrepresented that an investor would double their investment within one year and would bear little risk of loss.
In reality, Hoopes did not invest all of the capital he received. He used much of it for personal expenses, including paying credit card bills, and paying “positive” returns to existing investors primarily from the capital raised from new investors. Between 2007, and February of 2011, Hoopes received in excess of $9 million from investors. Of this amount, the defendant did not invest and misappropriated approximately $620,000 for his own personal use. Contrary to monthly account statements showing positive returns, he lost most of the remainder day trading and in other failed investments. Judge Lodge also ordered forfeiture of shares of Connected Lyfe in Hoopes’ possession.
“Those who convince others to entrust them with investing their hard-earned money but instead use that money for personal gain will be vigorously prosecuted,” said Olson. “This sentence ensures that Mr. Hoopes is punished and sends the strong message that investment schemes don’t pay.”
“Investment fraud schemes often involve individuals who appear extremely credible and trust worthy. When investigated by our special agents who specialize in following the money, these individuals are exposed as greedy and uncompassionate and have devastated the financial well-being of investors whose trust they betrayed,” said Gilbert R. Garza, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation for the state of Idaho.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
Today's announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.