A Ft. Myers man suspected in a foreign currency Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of nearly $1 million has been found dead in what authorities have preliminarily deemed a suicide. Willaim Jeffrey Chandler, 55, was found dead early today inside a silver Mercedes parked in front of a Muvico Theaters in Palm Harbor, Florida. A police spokeswoman disclosed that Chandler had "self-inflicted" wounds, but declined to elaborate further.
Chandler was the subject of a civil enforcement action brought in September by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC"). According to the CFTC, Chandler had been soliciting individuals since at least July 2010 to contribute to a pooled account that purportedly engaged in trading off-exchange contracts in Chandler's account at a Swiss bank. Participants were told that Chandler used to trade commodity futures when he previously worked at Merril Lynch, and lured by the prospect of guaranteed returns that ranged from two to 12.5 percent. In total, Chandler collected nearly $1 million from investors.
However, not only had Chandler's account at the Swiss bank been closed since July 2011, but at the time the account was transferred to another foreign-exchange dealer, the account contained only $292.49. Additionally, Chandler continued to solicit funds from prospective investors under the guise that he continued to trade in the closed Swiss account. This was not disclosed to investors, who continued to receive consistent monthly returns. However, Chandler began missing scheduled payments in early 2012, and when investors began demanding the return of their principal, they were met with a variety of excuses including his daughter's cancer recurrence, his wife's illness, and adverse tax consequences of transferring funds from Switzerland to the United States. Indeed, according to the CFTC, Chandler is believed to have misappropriated the majority of investor funds.
Following the filing of the enforcement action, the CFTC obtained an emergency order freezing Chandler's assets. According to the Tampa Bay Times, and subsequently confirmed by Ponzitracker, at least one of Chandler's victims posted in local Craigslist sites seeking out any other investors who may have been scammed by Chandler, directing them to contact police. Those posts, located here and here, appear to have been deleted.
Chandler's alleged scheme was not his first run-in with authorities. In 1991, he was charged with bank fraud and obtaining funds by false pretenses by the Department of Justice. He was sentenced to ten months in federal prison.
A copy of the CFTC's complaint is here.