Bay City woman accused of scamming millions from seniors - WNEM TV 5

Bay City woman accused of scamming millions from seniors

Posted: Updated:
Shawn Dicken Shawn Dicken
Joel Wilson Joel Wilson
BAY CITY, MI (WNEM) -

Attorney General Bill Schuette announced felony charges Monday against a Bay City woman for her alleged role in an extensive multi-county Ponzi scheme. 

Shawn Dicken, 39, of Bay City, is accused of defrauding senior citizens out of millions of dollars.

The charges come as a result of an Attorney General investigation.

"Con artists try new tricks every day to make a quick profit from vulnerable Michigan citizens," said Schuette. "We are aggressively cracking down on criminals who target the life savings of Michigan seniors. Be wary and ask questions of anyone promising investments that seem too good to be true."

Beginning in 2011, it is alleged that Dicken was employed as a salesperson for The Diversified Group Advisory Firm LLC, an investment company. During her tenure with Diversified, Dicken allegedly made material misrepresentations of the investments she marketed to investors.

Dicken allegedly stated the investments offered by Diversified were without risk, completely liquid, featuring a guaranteed rate of return of between 9.5% and 10.44%. Charges were filed involving nine Michigan residents who fell victim to Dicken's fraudulent investment scheme.

It is alleged that Dicken failed to disclose the risks associated with the actual investment in question—a highly leveraged real estate investment that could result in the loss of all of the investors' money. Many investors risked their life savings.

The Attorney General investigation revealed Dicken was allegedly funneling investors' money into a Ponzi Scheme operated by a Saginaw man, Joel Wilson. Wilson also faces extensive felony criminal charges. Dicken allegedly swindled investors out of over $2 million using dishonest tactics of material misrepresentation and the investigation revealed she took an eight percent commission, pocketing approximately $160,000 for herself.

In January 2013, Schuette filed nine felony charges against Wilson. Wilson remains a fugitive from justice with warrants outstanding for his arrest. At last check, Wilson was living in Germany, where he has conducted several phone interviews with TV5.

Schuette filed the following charges against Shawn Dicken in the 74th District Court in Midland County:

  • One count of Criminal Enterprises - Conducting, a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine; and,
  • One count of Embezzlement From A Vulnerable Adult - $50,000 Or More But Less Than $100,000, a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine or three times the value, the defendant must admit the amount, or it must be greater; and,
  • One count of Securities – Fraudulent Sales, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison or a $20,000 fine; and,
  • Seven counts of False Pretenses - $1,000 Or More But Less Than $20,000, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

Dicken was arraigned on Sept. 18, 2013 before Judge John Hart in Midland County's 75th District Court. Judge Hart ordered a $1,000,000 bond and ordered Dicken to surrender her passport and not to engage as an investment advisor.

Dicken is expected to appear in Midland County court on Sept. 25 at 1:15p.m. for a pre-exam conference.

Citizens who believe they may have been victims of Shawn Dicken, Joel Wilson or The Diversified Group are encouraged to file complaints with the Attorney General's Office at www.michigan.gov/ag by clicking "File a Complaint."

Consumer Tips For Safe Investing

Schuette encourages Michigan citizens to exercise caution before investing their money with those who promise exorbitant returns. 

"Do your homework before handing over your hard-earned money," said Schuette.  "Take your time, ask questions, and be sure to confirm your broker is in good standing with the State before signing on the dotted line."

Key tips to avoid falling victim to a Ponzi scheme or investment fraud include:

  • Check out your broker or adviser. Confirm that your broker and financial adviser is registered and in good standing. Contact the Bureau of Commercial Services with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, at 517-241-6345, to check out your broker or adviser.
  • Beware of strangers touting strange deals. Trusting strangers is a mistake anyone can make when it comes to their personal finances.  Almost anyone can sound nice or honest on the telephone.  Say "no" to any investment professional who presses you to make an immediate decision, giving you no opportunity to check out the salesperson, firm and the investment opportunity itself.  Beware of anyone who suggests investing your money into something you don't understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands.
  • Take your time - don't be rushed into investment decisions. Salespersons who use high-pressure tactics to force an investor into an immediate decision are almost always pitching frauds. They don'twant you to think too carefully or find out too much because you may figure out that it's a scam.
  • Keep tabs on your investments. Be wary when a financial planner says "leave everything to me," or "the plan is too complicated to tell you."  Everything should be clear and explainable to you.
  • Monitor the activity on your account.  Insist on receiving regular statements.
  • Ask Questions.  Never be embarrassed or apologetic about asking questions for trading activity that looks excessive or unauthorized.  It's your money, not your broker's.
  • Keep Diligent Records.  Keep all of your records relating to your investments, including notes of conversations you have with brokers, salespeople, and financial advisers.

Consumers can find helpful advice and a list of questions to consider in Attorney General Schuette's Consumer Alert for Ponzi Schemes, available on Schuette's website at http://1.usa.gov/AGPonziAlert.  Attorney General Schuette also offers specialized consumer advice for Michigan seniors on how to avoid investment fraud through the Senior Brigade website, http://bit.ly/investmentfraud.  

[Text "TV5" to 38102 to get breaking news alerts on your mobile phone]

Copyright 2013 WNEM (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

 

Powered by WorldNow
WNEM
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2014, WNEM; Saginaw, MI. (A Meredith Corporation Station) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.