Tuesday, May 27 2014 11:03 AM EDT2014-05-27 15:03:09 GMT
A Standish funeral home owner faces felony embezzlement charges for allegedly embezzling money from his customers' prepaid funerals. Attorney General Bill Schuette announced today his Criminal DivisionMore >
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BAY CITY, MI (WNEM) -
A man accused of running an illegal Ponzi scheme is expected to face formal charges Friday.
Joel Wilson, 31, is back in Mid-Michigan after spending months on the run in Germany. He was extradited last week.
Wilson is accused of bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from at least three Mid-Michigan residents.
Joel Wilson, who is from Saginaw, now faces nine felony charges, in connection with his dealings with three Michigan investors.
Attorney General Bill Schuette made the announcement Wednesday afternoon. More than $8 million in investor funds is still missing.
Wilson will be transported from Frankfurt, Germany to Detroit on May 15. He will then be arraigned in Bay County District Court the following day.
Wilson allegedly defrauded at least three Michigan victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and had been on the lam in Europe for more than a year.
Schuette said that when investigators closed in on his operation in late 2012, Wilson fled the country for Germany. Schuette filed multiple criminal charges against Wilson in January 2013 and worked with federal officials to issue a warrant for his arrest in Europe.
On Jan. 20, 2014, Wilson was arrested by Dresden Police. On Jan. 21, 2014, Schuette's office received notification from Interpol that Wilson had been arrested by European law enforcement. Schuette has filed paperwork to begin the extradition process.
"Victims of scam artists deserve to see justice served, and we will fight as long as it takes," said Schuette. "Financial exploitation is a growing crime in Michigan, and we are cracking down on these con artists. Be skeptical of anyone who promises huge returns for a small investment."
According to Schuette, beginning in 2009, Wilson allegedly scammed investors through his operation of The Diversified Group Advisory Fund LLC, an investment company. Wilson allegedly told investors that he would use their funds to purchase distressed properties in the Saginaw area and Bay City areas. The properties would later be refurbished and sold for profit, which would go to investors.
When funds Wilson collected from the sales of the unregistered securities failed to turn a profit, he allegedly used new investor funds to pay returns to previous investors - the trademark of a Ponzi scheme. In addition, Wilson allegedly pocketed approximately $47,000 of the investment funds to pay his personal expenses and acquire personal assets.
The following nine charges were filed against Wilson in Bay City District Court on Jan. 8, 2013:
One count of Continuing Criminal Enterprise (Racketeering), a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison;
Three counts of Sale of Unregistered Securities, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison;
One count of Larceny by Conversion ($20,000 or more), a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison;
One count of Larceny by Conversion ($1,000-$20,000), a felony punishable by up to five years in prison; and,
Three counts of Fraudulent Sale of Securities, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Wilson fled the United States for Germany to avoid criminal prosecution. Following Schuette's filing of charges against Wilson, additional victims have come forward with allegations against Wilson and the Diversified Group. Wilson may face additional charges pending the outcome of investigation into those cases.
In September 2013, Schuette announced felony charges against a second person for allegedly perpetrating Wilson's scheme. Shawn Dicken, 40, Bay City, for her alleged role as a salesperson in the Diversified Group Advisory Firm LLC Ponzi scheme. Dicken allegedly 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. Dicken allegedly swindled investors out of more than $2 million by using dishonest tactics. Investigation revealed Dicken allegedly took an eight percent commission, pocketing approximately $160,000 for herself.
A Midland County jury convicted 40-year-old Shawn Dicken of Bay City of nine felony charges for her role, including conducting a criminal enterprise. She was acquitted on one count of fraudulently selling securities. Sentencing is May 8.
Citizens who believe they may have been victims of 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."
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