Asheville Man Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud And Money Laundering For $22 Million Ponzi Scheme
The Defendant Admitted to Defrauding more than 23 Victims, Including some at, or near, Retirement Age
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Hal H. Brown Jr., 70, of Asheville, N.C., pleaded guilty to securities fraud and transactional money laundering in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler, for orchestrating a $22 million Ponzi scheme, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, joins U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.
According to admission made in plea documents and today’s plea hearing, from at least 2006 through September 2019, Brown fraudulently obtained more than $22 million from dozens of victims, some of whom were at, or near, retirement age, by engaging in an investment scheme through his company Oodles Inc. and its various affiliates (collectively, “OODLES”). Individual victims invested anywhere from a few thousand to a few million dollars in OODLES. To induce victims to invest their money, Brown falsely represented that OODLES owned hundreds of millions of dollars in intellectual property, namely family entertainment shows and movies. As part of the scheme, Brown repeatedly lied to victims about the imminent sale of those intellectual properties to various well-known media companies. To perpetuate the fraud, Brown developed marketing material seeking investments or loans for OODLES that claimed large returns on funds invested or lent to the company.
As Brown admitted in court today, to convince victims the scheme was legitimate and to appease investors who sought an explanation about delays in payouts, Brown provided victims with a number of fraudulent and misleading statements and fictitious information, including fake bank statements and falsified company agreements, among others.
Brown used a substantial part of victim money on personal expenses unrelated to purported OODLES transactions. He also used funds contributed by new investors to make payments to existing investors, commonly referred to as “Ponzi” payments.
A sentencing date for Brown has not been set. The securities fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $5 million fine. The transactional money laundering charge carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of not more than twice the amount of criminally derived property in the transaction or $250,000.
The FBI’s Charlotte Field Office handled the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Ryan and Mark Odulio of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte are prosecuting the case.
In March 2019, Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced the Office’s Elder Justice Initiative, which aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud; and promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners. For more information please visit: https://edit.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/elder-justice-initiative.