Baton Rouge Woman Sentenced to 48 Months in Federal Prison for Defrauding the PPP and EIDL Loan Programs and Laundering the Fraudulent Proceeds
United States Attorney Brandon J. Fremin announced today that Wallace Byers, age 59, of Miami, Florida, pled guilty to three counts of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson. As a result of his conviction, Byers faces a significant term of imprisonment, a fine, and a period of supervised release.
According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, between October 2014 and November 2018, Byers solicited victims in the Baton Rouge area and elsewhere to invest with his company, WBI Associates, Inc., promising victims large returns in a short time frame. Byers focused his solicitations on older individuals and those who had been victims of prior schemes. He promised his victims that the money would be invested, variously, in gold production, a lottery company, foreign currency, or “dark pools” or “blind pools.” Whenever his victims pressed for returns or refunds of their money, Byers gave various excuses for delays – the money was invested overseas, other individuals had to “sign off,” or more money needed to be invested before any was paid out. In truth, instead of investing the money as promised, Byers spent the money on personal expenditures, including among others, approximately $10,000 per month in rent for his residence in a Miami hotel, the lease of luxury cars, and gambling in casinos. Byers admitted that he received between $3,500,001 and $9,500,000 as a result of his scheme, $3,000,000 of which he sent to a Swiss bank account he controlled. Byers also admitted that he had two prior federal felony convictions, one of which was for a similar wire fraud scheme.
U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin stated, “This plea demonstrates our commitment to investigate and prosecute criminals who target our community with financial scams and abuse. Defendants who illegally line their pockets by deceiving and defrauding elderly victims have our attention and will be duly investigated and prosecuted. I am grateful for the outstanding efforts of our prosecutors and the dedicated professionals at the FBI whose collaboration and contributions were critical to the success of this important matter.”
Bryan Vorndran, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge stated, “Wallace Byers’ greed and pursuit of a lavish lifestyle depleted a number of victims in seven states of their life savings. Through an in-depth investigation, the FBI uncovered Byers’ detailed scheme of defrauding elders and vulnerable citizens for his own personal gain. I commend the hard work and dedication put forth by the investigative team and prosecutor to bring this case to justice. We urge the public to perform extensive research before investing with any company or individuals who promise large returns on your investments. Elder abuse is a top investigative priority for the FBI, if you believe you are a victim please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI or online at https://tips.fbi.gov.”
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations - Baton Rouge Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth E. White, who also serves as the Elder Justice Coordinator for the Middle District of Louisiana, and AUSAs Peter J. Smyczek and Demetrius D. Sumner.
The Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud; and promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners. For more information please visit: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice.