Atlanta Executives and an Internet-Based Promoter Charged with Scheme to Defraud Investors
ATLANTA – The co-owners, chief operating officer, and an alleged paid promoter of Sterling Currency Group, which at one time billed itself as one of the largest sellers and exchangers of the Iraqi dinar in the U.S., have been indicted for their roles in a scheme to fraudulently induce investors into purchasing the Iraqi dinar. Tyson Rhame, James Shaw, Terrence Keller, and Frank Bell, have been indicted in this case and had their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman.
“Investors in the Iraqi dinar, like all investors, are entitled to make an informed choice based on honest and transparent information,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. “These defendants are alleged to have defrauded investors by spreading misinformation about the investment potential of the Iraqi dinar in order to profit from sale of the currency. We urge anyone who believes they were impacted by this scheme to contact the FBI.”
“This federal indictment represents extensive efforts by the government to protect investors from those who would make alleged unsubstantiated claims involving the potential revaluation of certain foreign currency. The FBI, along with the IRS Criminal Investigative Division, has made every effort to provide some protection for those who have already invested by seizing millions of dollars, the disposition of which will be further determined as this case now moves into the U.S. Courts system,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
“Investment fraud schemes are designed to appeal to people's hope, often resulting in the total loss of their investment,” stated Special Agent in Charge Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Individuals who line their pockets with money gained through deceiving others should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable. The indictment of these individuals illustrates our commitment, along with our law enforcement partners, to pursue those individuals who victimize investors, violate the public trust and enrich themselves financially at the expense of the investor.”
According to U.S Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: During the scope of the conspiracy, the Iraqi dinar – which is the currency of the country of Iraq - was touted by some as a potential investment opportunity. Information publicly available on certain internet websites, blogs, chat rooms, and conference calls fueled this speculation by predicting that a “revaluation” of the Iraqi dinar would occur imminently. A “revaluation” or “RV,” in this context, meant a sudden, exponential rise in the value of the Iraqi dinar as compared to the U.S. dollar and other relatively stable global currencies. Individuals who owned Iraqi dinar would realize potentially enormous gains if an “RV” ever occurred in this manner.
Sterling Currency Group, LLC, which also did business as Sterling Online Processing Services, LLC, and Dinar Banker (collectively, “Sterling”), was a Georgia corporation with its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia. Sterling sold and exchanged so-called “exotic currencies,” including most predominantly the Iraqi dinar.Tyson Rhame and James Shaw were co-owners of Sterling, which began operations in 2004. Frank Bell began working for Sterling in 2010 and became Sterling’s Chief Operating Officer in 2011.
According to the indictment, Terrence Keller, who was also known as “TerryK,” led an internet-based group known as “The GET Team,” which consisted of a website, an internet chat forum and weekly conference calls in which, among other things, information was disseminated to participants concerning the potential investment value of the Iraqi dinar.Keller, through The GET Team, was one of the leading internet-based proponents of the “RV” theory. On The GET Team’s website, internet chat forum, and on weekly conference calls, Keller is alleged to have falsely claimed to have information from, and verified by, high-level confidential sources in the United States government, the Iraqi government, international organizations, and major financial institutions, regarding an imminent “RV.” However, Keller did not have information from, or contact with, these supposed high-level confidential sources. The indictment alleges that Keller, Rhame, Shaw, and Bell knew and believed that representations concerning an imminent “RV” of the Iraqi dinar, particularly claims that the information came from one or more supposed high-level confidential sources, would boost sales for Sterling.
Keller allegedly claimed, directly and indirectly, to The GET Team followers that he had no financial or other ulterior motive to promote the Iraqi dinar as an investment, but, rather, that he was simply disseminating his knowledge and information so that others could benefit from it as well. To that end, Keller affirmatively told his followers that he did not make substantial profits from his dealings with Sterling and other dinar dealers that advertised with the GET Team.Keller allegedly had a secret arrangement with Rhame, Shaw and Bell to promote and “pump” the Iraqi dinar in exchange for payments made by Sterling to benefit Keller. Since at least as early as August 2011, Sterling paid Keller over $160,000. Keller consistently downplayed these financial benefits to his followers and listeners.
The correlation between Sterling’s increased sales and Keller’s promotion of the Iraqi dinar was allegedly further cemented by the presence of a Sterling representative, including, at times, Rhame and Bell, on The GET Team’s conference calls and internet forums. At various times, Rhame, Bell and other Sterling representatives participated in conference calls and internet forums in which Keller made representations to followers concerning the imminent Iraqi dinar “RV,” his access to high-level confidential sources, and claims that he was just trying to be helpful and received no financial benefit for providing this information to others. The presence and participation of Rhame, Bell, and other Sterling representatives on The GET Team’s conference calls and internet forums provided further validation to followers that Keller’s claims about an imminent “RV” of the Iraqi dinar should be believed.
The indictment alleges that the promotional activities of Keller and other dinar promoters were essential to Sterling’s financial success and generated Sterling millions of dollars in dinar and other currency sales. In December 2010, Rhame is alleged to have told colleagues that Keller and the GET Team pushed 80% of Sterling’s business. In December 2011, Bell is alleged to have referred to the GET Team as Sterling’s “largest referrer.” Between approximately 2010 and June 2015, Sterling grossed over $600 million in revenue from the sale of the Iraqi dinar and other currencies. During this same time period, Rhame and Shaw received over $180 million in distributions from Sterling.
Tyson Rhame, 51, and James Shaw, 53, both of Atlanta, Georgia, Frank Bell, 54, of Decatur, Georgia, and Terrence Keller, also known as “TerryK,” 55, of Grayson, Kentucky, are each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as several counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. Rhame and Shaw are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.
The indictment also includes criminal forfeiture listing numerous assets to which the defendants may have an interest. Specifically, the government is seeking the forfeiture of millions of dollars held in financial accounts, foreign currencies, three private airplanes, three automobiles, numerous corporate and trust entities, as well as real property in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Iowa. Also, the government filed motions to amend two civil forfeiture complaints, which similarly seek the forfeiture of a variety of assets allegedly linked to this scheme. The government’s motions and amended civil forfeiture complaints can be found at United States v. 225 Valley Road, NW, Atlanta, GA et. al., 1:15-CV-2032-LMM (Doc. 217) and United States v. Approximately 8,671,456,050 in Iraqi Dinars, et. al., 1:15-CV-2677-LMM (Doc. 212).
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas J. Krepp, Steven D. Grimberg, and Jamie L. Mickelson are prosecuting the case. Assistant United States Attorneys Kelly K. Connors, Dahil D. Goss, and Thomas J. Krepp are handling the parallel civil forfeiture actions.
Members of the public who believe they were impacted by this scheme are encouraged to contact the FBI at https://forms.fbi.gov/iraqi-dinar-investment-investigation.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.