A California man wanted since 2006 for allegedly masterminding a $1.8 million Ponzi scheme was arrested after being captured in Thailand and extradited back to California. John Chiyuan Lee, 40, was arrested Friday evening after landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Lee was arrested by immigration police in the city of Pattaya, located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. According to news reports, Lee was traveling under a false identity and had four fake passports. He is scheduled to be arraigned on 31 felony charges.
According to authorities, Lee founded and operated Legacy International, Inc. ("Legacy Inc."), and Legacy International, Ltd ("Legacy Ltd."). From January 2000 to at least September 2005, Lee told potential investors that he was an experienced trader, and solicited the purchase of shares in Legacy Ltd. In return, investors were promised above-average returns of up to twenty-five percent annually. Lee provided potential investors with offering documents that described the fund's investment objective as capital appreciation, and stated that the fund would invest in any mix of U.S. and non-U.S. commodities, currencies, debt obligations and equity securities. In total, approximately 45 individuals invested over $3 million with Lee. Investors were provided with fictitious account statements showing purported trading gains. However, in reality, Lee experienced heavy losses when trading using investor funds. As a result, Lee used new investor contributions to pay returns to existing investors, a classic hallmark of a Ponzi scheme.
Lee is currently being held on $1.869 million bail.