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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. sentenced Robert Louis Winecoff, 37, of Huntersville, N.C. to 51 months in prison for operating an investment fraud scheme involving bogus investment products, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Winecoff was also ordered to serve two years under court supervision after he is released from prison and to pay more than $175,000 as restitution.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall and David M. McGinnis, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.
According to documents filed with the court and today’s sentencing hearing, from June 2013 to May 2014, Winecoff executed a scheme to defraud victim-investors by inducing them to invest in a variety of bogus investment instruments and products. Rather than invest his victim-investors’ money as promised, Winecoff diverted the funds for his own personal use. According to court records, Winecoff presented himself to victims as the principal of Winecoff Financial Consulting Group (WFCG), a purported financial consulting firm, and marketed his bogus investment products through a website associated with the firm, www.wfcgnc.com.
Court records show that Winecoff, along with others, recruited victim-investors by making a series of false and fraudulent representations. In particular, Winecoff and his recruiters told victim-investors that Winecoff would use their money as a deposit to obtain a financial instrument known as a “standby letter of credit.” Winecoff fraudulently represented to investors that the investment in the standby letter of credit would result in large payouts within a set period of time, typically between 20 and 30 days. Winecoff falsely assured victim-investors the investments were safe, legal, short-term, and guaranteed.
According to court records, once victim-investors agreed to invest in the fraudulent scheme, Winecoff typically presented them with an “MOU Agreement” and instructed the victim-investors to wire their investment funds, typically between $20,000 and $60,000, to a bank account he controlled. Despite promises of early returns, court records show that Winecoff never invested any money or made any payments to investors.
When victims contacted Winecoff or one of his recruiters to complain about not receiving the promised returns or to otherwise question their investments, Winecoff sent emails providing excuses about why payments had not been made, including that “[p]ayouts were made to some and not others,” and false assurances that victims would receive their money by a certain date.
During the course of the 11 month-scheme, Winecoff induced approximately 12 investors from several different countries to invest a total of approximately $343,000. Winecoff did not invest any of the victim-investors’ funds as promised, he did not make any payments to any victim-investors and he did not return their principal when requested.
Rather, than invest the victim-investors’ funds, Winecoff used the stolen money to fund his personal lifestyle. Court records show that Winecoff made purchases totaling nearly $65,000 at hotels, airlines, gas stations, and retail stores. He also made cash withdrawals totaling nearly $308,000 from the account into which victims had wired their money.
Winecoff pleaded guilty in March 2017 to one count of wire fraud. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation of the case was led by the Securities Division of the North Carolina Secretary of State and USPIS.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Miller, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.