Two New Jersey men pled guilty to charges that they masterminded a Ponzi scheme that duped investors out of nearly $4 million. Carmelo Provenzano, 29, and Daniel Dragan, 41, both entered into plea agreements with prosecutors in which they pled guilty to a single charge of wire fraud conspiracy. Both men face a maximum prison sentence of twenty years, along with a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense.
According to authorities, the scheme began in 2009, when Provenzano, Dragan, and another man, George Sepero, represented to investors that they owned several hedge funds in New Jersey known as Caxton Capital Management and CCP Pro Consulting Inc (the "Hedge Funds"). Potential investors were told that the Hedge Funds could achieve extraordinary gains through the use of a proprietary computer algorithm to trade foreign currencies. Over the past two years, the trio boasted that the trading program had yielded returns of over 170%. Relying on these representations, investors contributed more than $3.5 million to the Hedge Funds.
However, there was no secret computer algorithm and little, if any, funds were actually invested. Instead, the three operated a classic Ponzi scheme, mailing investors fictitious account statements showing profits and using inflows of investor funds to make payments of interest and principal to existing investors. Investors also received "screen-shots" showing their funds being traded in foreign currency markets; in reality, the images were from a fictional account. Additionally, the two lived lavish lifestyles traveling across the globe and racking up monthly credit card bills that regularly exceeded $25,000. On two separate nights at a Las Vegas nightclub, the pair spent over $10,000, including a $4,000 tip. Provenzano also purchased a luxury Range Rover sport.
Sepero is currently awaiting trial after being indicted on seventeen counts of wire fraud. Provenzano is scheduled to be sentenced on November 16, while Dragan will be sentenced on November 20.
A copy of the indictment filed against Sepero is here.