A former city councilman agreed to plead guilty to charges that he operated a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of at least $60 million. Ronnie Wilson, of Anderson County, South Carolina, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs to two charges of mail fraud during a hearing Monday in a South Carolina federal court. Wilson was arrested in April and charged with multiple counts of mail fraud, which carries a maximum prison sentence of twenty years per charge and up to a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to authorities, Wilson operated Atlantic Bullion & Coin, Inc., ("ABC") from at least 2001 through 2012, telling investors they could expect above-average returns through profits earned from the purchase and sale of silver futures contracts. To convince investors of the scheme's legitimacy, Wilson represented that all silver purchased would be held in safe-keeping at a Delaware depository. In total, Wilson raised approximately $90 million from over 1000 investors in 25 states.
However, Wilson failed to purchase a sufficient amount of silver to reflect the funds raised from investors. Instead, a majority of investor funds were used for a variety of unauthorized purposes, including personal expenses of Wilson and his family and to make Ponzi-style payments representing fictitious interest to investors. Authorities estimate that Wilson lost at least $60 million of the $90 million raised from investors.
In addition to the criminal action, Wilson and ABC are also the subject of an enforcement action filed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. That proceeding, which is pending, seeks rrestitution to defrauded investors, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, injunctive relief, and civil monetary penalties.
Wilson remains free on $1 million bond. The court-appointed receiver, Beattie B. Ashmore, indicated that he has met with Wilson several times during his investigation, but at this point, "would paint a very dim picture" in terms of recovery.