Charlotte, North Carolina – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday charged a North Carolina business consultant with violating anti-fraud provisions by operating a $7 million Ponzi scheme, according to a news release.
The federal government alleges that at least 75 North Carolina residents were defrauded by Charlotte’s Wynn Charlebois.
The money earned by the fraudulent investors was used to pay his family’s debts, mortgage payments, vacations and private school for his children, the SEC alleges in the lawsuit.
“The lavish lifestyle of Charlebois [was] depends almost entirely on obtaining new funds from investors in order to stay afloat,” according to the complaint.
He had presented himself as a “self-taught” investor and consultant since the early 2000s, the SEC said. He used his social capital and his network of colleagues from an investment bank where he previously worked to win clients.
Charlebois had defrauded investors as early as 2005, according to the SEC. He was able to gain people’s trust and convince investors to enter into loan agreements where the funds were used to buy shares in private companies, among others.
The SEC said he also lied to investors, told them he worked for companies he didn’t, and offered his services as a consultant.
In recent years, Charlebois “provided investors with the opportunity to participate in investments in which profits would be realized through the exercise of stock options he allegedly held.”
A review of Charlebois’ accounts by the SEC found that he constantly recycled money between commercial and personal banks in an effort to maintain average daily balances and maintain the appearance that his promises were being kept. Often he would ask investors for cash advances in order to pay previous lenders, according to the SEC complaint.
When investors asked Charlebois about where their money was, he blamed the bank for the delays or told them he was busy, according to the SEC. He also forged bank documents to make it look like the investors had funds in their bank account.
According to the SEC filing, he used the money he made from investors to also pay more than $121,000 for his child’s private college in Dallas and another $65,000 for his private high school. child.
He also used the funds to pay for “lavish” family vacations and stays at the Ritz Carlton. The family spent nearly $9,000 on a week-long vacation in Boca Grande, Florida, despite Charlebois’ checking account being negative, according to the filing.
“The funds Charlebois received from investors were not invested as he advertised, and he had no income from anything other than money he received from new investors, loans from personal friends and cash advances from merchants,” the complaint alleges.
The SEC is seeking to freeze Charlebois’ assets ahead of his court appearance.