CaribWorldNews, RALEIGH, N.C., Thurs. Nov. 19, 2009: Assets worth nearly $70 million of a former Caribbean banker accused of ripping off more than 375 investors, hit the auction block Wednesday.
The cars, art, jewels and wine fine of the missing 58-year-old William Wise of the Caribbean-based Millennium Bank have been ordered auctioned in a move to recoup some money to repay investors.
The Rockingham-based Iron Horse Auction Co. of North Carolina is conducting the auction under a federal court order.
The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Wise used the St Vincent and the Grenadines-based bank as a front for a Ponzi scheme in which he stole nearly $70 million from over 300 investors from July 2004.
Millenium bank has apparently been marketing its financial products to wealthy US citizens since 2004, and described itself as a subsidiary of a Swiss bank, United Trust of Switzerland SA. The investors, lured by the prospect of high investment returns offered by banking offshore, happily snapped them up.
`The defendants disguised their Ponzi scheme as a legitimate offshore investment and made promises about exuberant returns that were just too good to be true,` said the director of SEC`s Texas office Rose Romero in March this year.
`Investors need to be especially cautious when placing money with entities that may be outside the reach of U.S. regulators. None of the investor funds were used for any investment purpose,` the SEC said in a court hearing. Instead the fraudsters made off with the vast majority of the funds, keeping only a small amount to pay off existing investors.
Clients were asked to send checks to the Caribbean, where they were forwarded to California, the SEC said, The money was then deposited in a Las Vegas bank account opened by some of the conspirators.
Only $3million of the collected funds was returned to investors, according to the SEC.
No charges have been filed in the case, but after the SEC sued Wise and others in March, the courts froze all of Wise`s assets. Auctioneers hoped to raise more than $400,000 from the sale. Wise`s whereabout, meanwhile, is unknown.