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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 23, 2019

British Citizen Arrested For Conspiracy To Defraud Investors Of More Than $36 Million

Savraj Gata-Aura, a/k/a “Sam Aura,” Participated in a Conspiracy with Renwick Haddow and Others to Make False and Misleading Representations to Investors in Workspace Sharing Company; Haddow Has Pled Guilty and is Cooperating with the Investigation

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging SAVRAJ GATA-AURA, a/k/a “Sam Aura,” with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for engaging in a scheme to defraud victims by making material misrepresentations about the management and operations of a company called Bar Works Inc. and related entities (“Bar Works”).  GATA-AURA was arrested this morning and will be presented later today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. 

In addition, U.S. Attorney Berman announced the unsealing of a guilty plea, on May 8, 2019, by RENWICK HADDOW, a/k/a “Jonathan Black,” in which he admitted to his own involvement in the fraudulent scheme related to Bar Works, as well as to making material misrepresentations and misappropriating investment funds in another company created by HADDOW called Bitcoin Store Inc. (“Bitcoin Store”).  HADDOW was originally charged in June 2017 and extradited from Morocco in April 2018.  HADDOW, who pled guilty to an Information charging him with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, is cooperating with the Government in this investigation.  HADDOW’s case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:  “Renwick Haddow, a U.K. citizen, had a long track record of financial misconduct in the U.K., so much so that British regulatory authorities imposed an eight-year ban barring Haddow from serving as director of any financial institution.  Haddow then turned his sights toward the U.S., using the alias ‘Jonathan Black’ and fraudulently soliciting investments in Bar Works.  Haddow and co-defendant Savraj Gata-Aura allegedly solicited funds from investors with fictitious claims about Bar Works’ management and performance.  They are now being held to account for the blizzard of lies they told to get money from their unsuspecting victims.”

According to the Indictment unsealed today, the Information to which HADDOW pled, a previously filed Complaint against HADDOW, and other court documents:[1]

GATA-AURA and HADDOW are citizens of the United Kingdom who principally resided in New York from at least September 2015 through at least June 2017.  Prior to moving to New York, HADDOW was sanctioned and sued by British regulators for operating a variety of investment schemes in which investors lost money.  Those sanctions and related lawsuits were publicized online, using HADDOW’s real name.

From September 2015 through at least about June 2017, GATA-AURA and others partnered with HADDOW in soliciting investments in Bar Works through material misrepresentations concerning, among other things, the identity of Bar Works’ management and the financial condition of that company.  Specifically, HADDOW adopted the alias “Jonathan Black” to further hide his role in Bar Works in light of the negative publicity on the internet about his regulatory history in the United Kingdom.  Notwithstanding HADDOW’s control over Bar Works, HADDOW caused the Bar Works offering materials to list Black as the chief executive officer of Bar Works and claim that Black had an extensive background in finance and past success with start-up companies.  HADDOW also made material misrepresentations to investors about, among other things, the operations and historical performance of both Bar Works and Bitcoin Store.

GATA-AURA spearheaded efforts to raise millions of dollars in investments into Bar Works while misrepresenting that “Jonathan Black” was the company’s CEO.  GATA-AURA recruited agents to sell workspace leases in Bar Works and provided them with offering documents and other information that concealed HADDOW’s control and ownership interests in Bar Works, and affirmatively misrepresented that “Jonathan Black” ran the company.  Between September 2015 and June 2017, Bar Works raised over $36 million from investors.  GATA-AURA personally obtained at least $3.1 million in exchange for his participation in the scheme.

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SAVRAJ GATA-AURA, 33, has been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of wire fraud conspiracy relating to the Bar Works scheme.  Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

HADDOW, 50, pled guilty to one count each of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy relating to the Bar Works scheme, and one count each of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy relating to the Bitcoin Store scheme.  Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the FBI and thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission for its assistance. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vladislav Vainberg and Martin S. Bell are in charge of the prosecution.   

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, Information, and the referenced Complaints, and the description of those charging documents set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Press Release Number: 
19-164
Updated May 23, 2019