Florida Man Sentenced To Federal Prison For An Investment Fraud Scheme Involving Baton Rouge Area Victims
United States Attorney Brandon J. Fremin announced that U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Wallace Byers, age 60, of Miami, Florida, to 121 months in federal prison following his conviction for wire fraud. The Court further sentenced Byers to three years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment, and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $6,880,000.
According to admissions made as part of Byers’ guilty plea, between October 2014 and November 2018, he 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.
As part of the investigation, the FBI seized several bank accounts controlled by Byers, including the funds in the Swiss bank account. The FBI also seized $260,000 in cash, $230,000 of which was seized from one of his safe deposit boxes, and $30,000 of which was seized from a safe in his residence. Byers’ interest in these bank accounts, in the cash, and in other items has been forfeited. All property forfeited to the United States, including the cash and the funds in the bank accounts, will be made available for distribution to all of the victims.
U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin stated, “Preventing and prosecuting elder fraud is a priority of the Department of Justice, and this sentence should serve as a warning to those who would commit crimes against our vulnerable citizens that we will use all of our resources, both here and abroad, to bring offenders to justice and punish those that break the law. I applaud the efforts of our prosecutors and the FBI in the conviction of this defendant and seizing proceeds of the theft.”
Bryan A. Vorndran, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge stated, “Wallace Byers left his victims broke and betrayed. Unfortunately, the investment funds and life savings stolen from vulnerable members of our community has negatively impacted each of their lives. Throughout his endeavors, Byers demonstrated a lack of integrity, self-control, and morals, as he defrauded elderly victims from seven different states. I hope today’s sentence serves as a small victory for all his victims who remain traumatized by his actions. If you believe you are a victim of elder fraud, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI or online at https://tips.fbi.gov.”
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations - Baton Rouge Field Office, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth E. White, Peter J. Smyczek, Demetrius D. Sumner, and J. Brady Casey, and former Assistant United States Attorney Jay Thompson.
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.