A German man who had been a fugitive for the past five years following the accusation that he mastermnded a $100 million Ponzi scheme was arrested last week after a fingerprint match from a DUI stop in Las Vegas prompted the interest of American and German authorities. Ulrich Felix Anton Engler, 51, was arrested by U.S. immigration authorities last week and is currently awaiting extradition to Germany to face multiple criminal charges. A warrant was issued by a German court for Engler's arrest in February 2007, charging him with multiple criminal charges carrying a maximum prison sentence of twenty years.
From June 2003 to December 2004, Engler owned and operated Private Commercial Office ("PCO"). Engler, through PCO, solicited investments from investors worldwide by promising significant investment returns through 'conservative' day trading of securities on the New York Stock Exchange. Potential investors were told that Engler had developed powerful trading software that could analyze approximately 5,000 stock trades per second, which therefore enabled Engler to capture profits before other similarly situated traders. Based on these representations, investors deposited over $150 million into bank accounts owned by Engler.
Austrian securities regulators issued a notice to investors in November 2006 alerting them to the fact that Engler and PCO were not authorized to provide investment advice or manage client portfolios. Wachovia, which serviced Engler's accounts, was notified of this notice, but failed to close Engler's accounts until January 2008. By then, the account had been depleted to a balance of $53,000. After Engler became a fugitive, a group of PCO creditors filed an involuntary petition for bankruptcy against Engler and PCO, and a trustee was appointed on April 30, 2008. A suit was filed on behalf of investors against Wachovia (now known as Wells Fargo) on December 15, 2011, alleging numerous causes of action including aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duties and unjust enrichment.
Engler had been a fugitive for several years when he was arrested in February 2011 for suspicion of driving under the influence in Las Vegas, Nevada. After Engler's fingerprints matched those supplied by German authorities, U.S. authorities began secretly investigating Engler, discovering that he was operating a similar fraudulent scheme in Las Vegas under the assumed name of Joseph Miller. After his arrest last week, authorities executed a search warrant on a storage facility rented by Engler in southern Nevada, where they discovered a stash of more than 1,000 pieces of artwork. Authorities are continuing to investigate Engler's activities in his time as a fugitive.
Upon learning of Engler's arrest, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, Robert Tardif, Jr., sought court approval to interview Engler at his place of incarceration before his deportation in a request known as a Rule 2004 examination. That motion was granted today by United States District Judge Michael G. Williamson, who ordered that Tardif would be able to interview Engler prior to any deportation or extradition.
A link to the website maintained by the bankruptcy trustee is here.
A copy of the class action lawsuit filed against Wells Fargo is here.