SEC: Secretive 'Trust' With World War II Ties That Promised 38% Annual Returns Was $15 Million Ponzi Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") instituted a civil enforcement action against a Florida man and a California woman, alleging that the investment opportunity promising 38% annual returns and requiring strict secrecy was, in reality, a Ponzi scheme that raised more than $15 million from unsuspecting investors. Billy W. McClintock, 70, and Diane Alexander, also 70, were charged with multiple violations of federal securities laws in connection with the alleged scheme, which promised lucrative gains through a highly-secretive entity known as the "Trust". The SEC is seeking injunctive relief, an asset freeze, disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains, and civil monetary penalties.
According to the SEC, McClintock was a resident of Bradenton, Florida, and had previously served time in prison due to a cocaine trafficking conviction. McClintock and Alexander apparently shared a long-time friendship, and sometime before 2002, McClintock confided to Alexander that he was associated with a secretive investment club known as the "Trust". Apparently, while on a trip to London, McClintock had happened upon a man named "John" who was a member of the Trust and disclosed to McClintock that he could lend money to the Trust and receive a 38% annual return. The "Trust" was allegedly formed after World War II by several wealthy European families, with offices in Luxembourg and Zurich, and had the power to create money "through fractional banking and the sale of banking debentures"
The "Trust" was shrouded by heavy secrecy, with McClintock being told that the communication of any details about the trust to any third person, such as an attorney, certified financial accountant, or financial planner, would result in that person's permanent ban from participating in the Trust. After hearing McClintock's story, Alexander accepted McClintock's offer to serve as United States Regional Director for the Trust, in addition to three other unnamed Regional Directors. Along with McClintock - the 'United States National Director' - the two relayed the same story to potential investors, along with the promise of steady annual returns of 38%. The two also appealed to investors' religious beliefs, telling them to "put your money in the Trust and your trust in God.” In total, approximately 220 investors contributed over $15 million to the "Trust".
However, contrary to their representations, there is no evidence that any secretive Trust ever existed, and neither Alexander nor McClintock ever sent any investor funds to any Trust. Rather, according to the SEC, investor funds were simply pooled together in classic Ponzi scheme fashion, and the regular interest payments made to investors were in fact comprised of these commingled funds. Additionally, investors were not told that, in return for referring investors to the "Trust", Alexander received a 'management' fee of 5%, which she also received for every investor that 'rolled over' their principal investment upon expiration. As the SEC stated,
the Trust is a Ponzi scheme in which new investor funds, not Trust profits, pay the purported fees and interest owed to earlier investors.
Ironically, Alexander sought to convince investors to disregard the old agage that 'If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,' claiming that it was simply 'a lie that came from the pit of hell.'
A copy of the SEC complaint is here.