South Carolina Man Admits Running $900,000 Foreign Currency Ponzi Scheme
NEWARK, N.J. – A South Carolina man today admitted defrauding at least 20 individuals by soliciting investments in what he claimed were highly successful, algorithm-based trading pools in foreign currency derivatives (“forex”) and other financial instruments, and then using the bulk of the money for personal expenditures and to pay off other victims, Attorney for the United States Rachael Honig announced.
Thomas Lanzana, 51, of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and formerly of New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez Count 1 of the indictment returned against him in August 2019, charging him with wire fraud.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Lanzana fraudulently solicited approximately $900,000 from at least 20 customers to invest in forex pools beginning as early as 2013. Lanzana misrepresented to prospective customers that he was a successful forex trader when, in fact, he was not. To keep his customers’ trust, Lanzana, among other things, (1) sent false account statements to his customers, (2) posted false monthly account statements to his companies’ websites showing balances and trading activity for forex trading accounts that did not exist, and (3) generated and sent false tax documents to customers reporting earnings that did not exist. Lanzana misappropriated approximately $350,000 in customer funds, using some to repay earlier investors in the manner of a Ponzi scheme, and to pay for his personal expenses, including purchases on Amazon.com, payments to a luxury car dealer and a jewelry retailer, and golf expenses.
The count of wire fraud to which Lanzana pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain to the defendant or loss to the victims. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2021.
Attorney for the United States Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr., and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Michael Montanez, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement for its role in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Torntore, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Cybercrime Unit.