Owners of currency exchange business that made $600 million convicted of fraud
ATLANTA – The co-owners and chief operating officer of one of the largest Iraqi dinar exchangers in the United States were convicted by a federal jury following a five-week trial. Tyson Rhame, James Shaw, and Frank Bell were each convicted of mail and wire fraud conspiracy, as well as multiple counts of mail and wire fraud. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal law enforcement agents.
“These executives engaged in a lengthy campaign to defraud investors by spreading lies about the investment potential of the Iraqi dinar,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “These convictions resulted from years of investigation, which included dozens of electronic and physical search warrants, hundreds of witness interviews, and extensive financial analysis.”
“The conviction of these three defendants is the result of an extensive effort by the government to protect investors from those who make unsubstantiated claims about the potential revaluation of a foreign currency,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Their greed led them to steal the hopes of unsuspecting investors and ultimately led them to their demise. The FBI and its partners make it a priority to root out and punish anyone who preys on investors for their own selfish desires.”
“This was a trial about fraudulent inducements, conspiracy, investment fraud and outright greed,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Rhame, Shaw, and Bell saw an opportunity to build their personal net worth and business position in the currency market by seizing on investors’ desire for high returns on their investments. At the end of the trial, the jury agreed with the government and found the Sterling Currency Group co-owners and chief operating officer guilty of the conspiracy and the underlying frauds. Despite the challenges these complex cases present, IRS-CI is committed to working with our partners at the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to show white-collar fraud is still an investigative priority.”
According to Acting U.S Attorney Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court: Rhame and Shaw owned and operated the Sterling Currency Group, which was once one of the country’s largest sellers of the Iraqi dinar. Bell was Sterling’s chief operating officer. Between 2010 and June 2015, Sterling grossed over $600 million in revenue from the sale of the Iraqi dinar and other currencies, while Rhame and Shaw received over $180 million in distributions.
The evidence at trial established that the defendants took steps to make investors believe they would get rich by investing in the Iraqi dinar. At one point, Rhame posted information on Sterling’s website falsely suggesting that the dinar was about to revalue. At other times, Rhame and Bell falsely claimed that Sterling would cash out investors at airports around the country following a dinar “revaluation.” The defendants also paid substantial sums of money to third parties who in turn spread false information about the dinar on conference calls and Internet chat rooms.
Tyson Rhame, 53, and James Shaw, 55, both of Atlanta, Georgia, and Frank Bell, 55, of Decatur, Georgia, were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and multiple mail and wire fraud counts. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal agents regarding Sterling’s operations. The jury acquitted the defendants of money laundering charges. A fourth defendant, Terrence Keller, was acquitted of all charges at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas J. Krepp, Alison B. Prout, and Kamal Ghali, Deputy Chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crime Section are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly K. Connors and Dahil D. Goss are handling the parallel civil forfeiture actions related to this case.
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.