Houston Man Sentenced in $6.4 Million Diamond Investment Fraud Scheme
DALLAS — Christopher Arnold Jiongo, 57, of Houston, Texas, appeared this morning before U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater and was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $3,786,595 in restitution for his role in a diamond investment scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas.
Jiongo pleaded guilty in May 2017 to one count of wire fraud. Judge Fitzwater ordered Jiongo to report to the Bureau of Prisons on January 9, 2018.
Co-defendants Craig Allen Otteson, 65, and Jay Bruce Heimburger, 59, were previously sentenced by Judge Fitzwater to 121 months and 97 months, respectively, in federal prison. Jiongo received a reduction to his sentence due to his early guilty plea and cooperation with the government’s investigation, as well as his testimony at Heimburger’s recent sentencing hearing.
According to the plea agreement factual resume filed in the case, Otteson acted as the Managing Member and Chief Compliance Officer of Stonebridge Advisors, LLC, located in Dallas. Stonebridge Advisors was involved as the Managing Partner of Worldwide Diamond Ventures, L.P., also located in Dallas, and it acted as the General Partner of Worldwide Diamond. Heimburger acted as a Principal Partner of Worldwide Diamond, and he was also listed as the registered agent and Director of JBH Securities, Inc. located in Dallas. JBH Securities was primarily involved in the business of providing investment advice. Worldwide Diamond was primarily involved in the business of buying and reselling diamonds on the international market. On October 1, 2013, Worldwide Diamond filed for bankruptcy in the Northern District of Texas.
The indictment charged that Jiongo drafted $50,000 diamond notes which Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger later used as investment vehicles to generate investment funds. As part of their original business plan, Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger represented to American Safe Retirements (ASR) that all investment funds would be used to buy and resell diamonds and that every dollar invested would always be fully secured by the cash and diamond inventory of Worldwide Diamond. Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger all understood that ASR would instruct ASR sales agents to represent to investors that every dollar invested through the diamond notes would always be fully secured by the cash and diamond inventory of Worldwide Diamond.
The indictment also alleged that sometime in the summer of 2011, Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger all realized that their original business plan was not working out as planned and that the defendants therefore could not honor the original promises and representations made to investors. Rather than inform ASR and the investors of the changed circumstances caused by their failed business plan, Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger chose to deceive ASR when they failed to inform ASR that 100% of all investment funds would not be secured by cash and/or the diamond inventory of Worldwide Diamond. By deceiving ASR, Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger knew that they were also causing the investors to be deceived about the use of investor funds.
The indictment alleged that during the period from 2011 through 2013, Otteson, Heimburger, and Jiongo caused over $6.4 million to be fraudulently collected from 77 Worldwide Diamond investors.
This case is one of many felony indictments of bankruptcy-related crimes prosecuted as part of the Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative (BFI), United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Texas. These prosecutions were the result of criminal referrals made by the United States Trustee’s Office in Dallas, Texas. Since 2013, as a result of the BFI, 23 defendants have been convicted and 2 defendants are pending trial.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis prosecuted.
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