Richmond, Virginia - A federal jury found two representatives of a purported investment company based in the United Kingdom guilty on October 30 for their roles in an investment fraud scheme by which they stole at least $5 million from victim investors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Inspector in Charge Delany De Leon-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group, Special Agent in Charge David Archey of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office and Mark C. Christie Chair of the Virginia State Corporation made the announcement.
After a four-day trial, James Michael Johnson, 69, of Richmond, Virginia and James Leonard Smith, 64, of Midlothian, Virginia, were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
Brian Michael Bridge, 46, of London, England, a fugitive, was also charged in the superseding indictment. Sentencing for Johnson and Bridge is scheduled for March 5, 2021, before U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson for the Eastern District of Virginia. Co-conspirator Stuart Anderson, who pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 13.
According to evidence presented at trial, Johnson and Smith participated in a worldwide scheme through Chimera Group Ltd. The scheme operated as an advance fee scheme which involved the defendants as promoters who promised to pay the victims a sum of money at a later date in exchange for an upfront advanced payment. Among other misrepresentations, Johnson and Smith and their co-conspirators told potential victims that their principal payments would be protected based on letters of credit and other documents that purported to be from a large financial institution. However, these letters were fabricated. The evidence also showed that the defendants used escrow attorneys, who were themselves part of the scheme, in order to give the victims the appearance that their money would remain secure until the defendants’ promises had been kept.
The defendants stole at least $5 million from their victims.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group, FBI’s Richmond Field Office and Virginia State Corporation Commission investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Vasanth Sridharan and Christopher Jackson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Moore of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.