Charlotte men sentenced in Ponzi schemes

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by APRIL BETHEA / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on January 18, 2013 at 9:24 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two Charlotte men will each spend more than 4 1/2 years in federal prison after authorities say they orchestrated two separate Ponzi schemes.

Mitchell Brian Huffman, 52, and Robert S. Moss, 49, both pleaded guilty last September to one count of commodities fraud. The men were sentenced late Thursday and will self-report to prison at a later date.

Huffman was charged after authorities say he engaged in a $2.5 million Ponzi scheme. Authorities say he raised about $3.2 million from his victims between 2006 through about March 2011 by falsely claiming he was generating annual rates of return between 100 percent to 150 percent using a commodities futures market trading program, according to court documents and proceedings.

Authorities said Huffman told his victims to transfer money into his personal bank account. He then spent about $1.7 million – or a little more than half – of their money to engage in trading activities and concealed the scheme using bogus monthly statements to victims. Authorities say Huffman also made payments of about $834,160 to victim investors and falsely told them the money was profits from trading activity.

Huffman also spent some of the victims’ money on personal expenses, such as vehicles or luxury vacations.

Huffman was sentenced to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He also was ordered to pay restitution to his victims, with a final amount to be determined within 60 days.

In the second case, Moss was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.46 million in restitution.

Moss was charged with orchestrating a $1.5 million scheme. Authorities say that between 2001 and February 2009, Moss solicited about $3.1 million from 22 victims across the country by falsely claiming he was generating substantial projects through options trading in the commodities futures market.

For example, authorities say Moss told his victims that he had not had a losing year of trading since 1993 and generated annual returns between 22 percent and 41 percent. But authorities say he suffered losses of $342,264 between 2003 and 2009.

Authorities say Moss concealed the scheme by making $1.6 million in Ponzi payments to his victims and falsely said the money came from successful trading profits. They say he also spent some of the victims’ money on personal expenses such as mortgage payments or groceries.

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