Guilty Plea in Gift Card Ponzi Scheme

A South Carolina woman has pled guilty to orchestrating a gift card Ponzi Scheme.  Annette Marie Benson, 44, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in a South Carolina federal court on Wednesday, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

Benson carried out the scheme by selling valid gift cards to victims at a steep discount, often up to 20%-50% off the retail value.  These cards were from retailers such as American Express, Shell, Visa, and Walmart.  Benson did not receive any discounts on the cards she purchased to resell, and would continue selling the cards to new victims in order to make up for the losses incurred.  Yet, consistent with the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme, Benson's scheme collapsed when her outstanding obligations outweighed the money she was able to draw in.

Benson is scheduled to be sentenced October 4th.  

Texas Man Indicted for $4 Million Ponzi Scheme

A Texas man was indicted today for his role in a Ponzi Scheme estimated to have pulled in $4 million of investor funds.  Christopher Blackwell, 32, was charged with two counts of wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1343.  Each charge carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in federal prison along with a $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors allege that Blackwell, operating AV Bar Reg Inc. and Millers A Game LLC, claimed to have an established trading program in which investors could receive gains of 25% - 30% per month.  In attempting to bolster his credibility and reputation, Blackwell made a variety of representations concerning his academic and professional background.  These claims included masters and doctoral degrees from a Spanish university and previous employment at Goldman Sachs and the Bank of Madrid.  All of these claims were false.  

Thus far, twenty victims have been identified.  The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Blackwell in February, which was settled in March.  


A copy of the criminal complaint is here.

A copy of the complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission is here.