A federal jury has convicted a Charlotte man as part of the long-running “Operation Wax House” probe, the latest person found guilty in connection with the multimillion-dollar mortgage and investment fraud scheme, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Steven Jones, 46, was convicted Thursday of racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud scheme to defraud investors and money laundering conspiracy following a three-day trial.
The charges come with a combined possible prison term of 80 years and $1.3 million in possible fines. A sentencing date has not been set.
Launched in 2007, the probe has centered on a $75 million scheme that spanned Mecklenburg and Union counties. The investigation has led to 91 people being charged, of which 86 have pleaded guilty or been convicted, according to prosecutors.
From about 2005 to 2012, the criminal enterprise took part in an extensive pattern of racketeering activities, which included investment or securities fraud, mortgage fraud in the form of wire fraud and bank fraud and money laundering, said U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins’ office.
Prosecutors said Jones, a promoter in the scheme’s investment fraud operation, brought in multiple investors whom he and others defrauded out of $3.7 million. The scheme involved creating a series of sham corporations to bilk investors. When investors would become aware of problems with one corporation, a new one would be formed to continue the fraud.
Prosecutors said Jones and others not only defrauded victims of money they already had but also convinced investors to take out expensive loans used by Jones and co-conspirators to fund lavish lifestyles. Investors’ funds were used for private jets and for entertainment for themselves and others, among other things, according to prosecutors.
Jones is on home detention and being monitored electronically while awaiting scheduling of his sentencing hearing.
“Mr. Jones is disappointed with the verdict and will continue to seek his vindication,” Kevin Tate, Jones’ attorney, said Friday. Tate declined to comment further.
Prosecutors say there are five remaining defendants:• Ramin Amini, 45, of Tehran, Iran, who is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud and money laundering conspiracy. He is an international fugitive, prosectors say.
• Kurosh Mehr, 52, of Charlotte, who has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud and money laundering. Mehr, who is free on bond, has a September trial date.
• Ann Tyson Mitchell, 62, of Charlotte, who is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud and money laundering. She is free on bond with a September trial date.
• John Wayne Perry Jr., 32, of Charlotte, who is charged with racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. He is free on bond and has a September trial date.
• Nazeere Saddig, 41, formerly of Charlotte, who is charged with racketeering conspiracy and mortgage fraud. He is an international fugitive, according to prosecutors.