Crime & Courts

Man pleads guilty in Charlotte in one of largest Ponzi schemes ever

A man linked to one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history pleaded guilty this week in federal court in Charlotte to obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors said Jaymes Meyer, 47, lied to authorities who were investigating the North Carolina-based scheme that involved hundreds of millions of dollars.

Meyer was chief executive officer of a financial services firm in Napa, Calif. The firm controlled about $17.4 million in assets of Lexington, N.C.-based Rex Ventures Group LLC, court records show.

The Securities and Exchange Commission froze RVG’s assets amid its investigation of the scheme.

When the SEC came knocking at Meyer’s firm, Preferred Merchants LLC, Meyer lied by saying his firm controlled no RVG assets, according to Meyer’s plea agreement this week.

Meyer admitted in court that he wired about $4.8 million from an RVG trust account to a brokerage account under his control within an hour of learning about the SEC investigation.

Over the next 10 months, Meyer used the money to purchase homes in Napa and the Turks and Caicos, to which he subsequently made $1.5 million in improvements, prosecutors said. He also withdrew about $195,000 in cash, according to court records.

The Turks and Caicos islands are north of the Dominican Republic.

Meyer also established a Cook Islands-based trust account, formed a shell company and opened a brokerage account in the shell company’s name to further conceal the trail of RVG assets, prosecutors said. The Cook Islands is a nation in the south Pacific, southwest of Tahiti.

In connection with his plea agreement, Meyer agreed to pay a $4.8 million judgment and forfeit the homes he purchased in the Turks and Caicos and Napa. Meyer will be sentenced at a later date.

The Internet Ponzi scheme used penny auctions and the promise of high returns to attract more than 1 million investors worldwide. Some 50,000 North Carolinians took part, including 1,500 Charlotte residents.

Investigators said seven out of 10 investors lost money, more than $700 million in all, making the scheme the largest on record in terms of the number of victims.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak