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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

South Carolina Man Indicted for Running $1.1 Million Foreign Currency Ponzi Scheme

NEWARK, N.J. – A South Carolina man was indicted today on charges that he defrauded at least 20 people by soliciting investments in a phony foreign currency trading scheme, Attorney for the United States Rachael Honig announced.

Thomas Lanzana, 51, of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and formerly of New Jersey, was charged by indictment with two counts of wire fraud and one count of commodities fraud. He was previously charged with the same offenses by criminal complaint on Aug. 10, 2018.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From at least 2013, Lanzana solicited approximately $1.1 million from at least 45 customers to invest in what he claimed were highly successful, algorithm-based trading pools in foreign currency derivatives (forex) and other financial instruments. He misrepresented to prospective customers that he was a successful forex trader when he was not. To keep his customers’ trust, Lanzana sent them false account statements, posted false monthly account statements to his companies’ websites showing balances – some in excess of $800,000 – for forex trading accounts that did not exist, and sent false tax documents to customers reporting earnings that did not exist.

Lanzana misappropriated at least $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 counts of wire fraud with which Lanzana is charged carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. The count of commodities fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, or twice the gross gain or loss.

Attorney for the United States Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark; and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. She 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 Cyber Crime Unit.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
19-250
Updated August 27, 2019