James Thomas, 44, of Villa Rica, Georgia, was arraigned on federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering arising from an alleged advance fee fraud scheme involving $1.7 million. Thomas was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 15, 2015.
According to the U.S. Attorney, the charges, and other information presented in court: Between 2008 and 2011, Thomas portrayed his firm, Trilateral Capital and Development LLC (“Trilateral”), as a reputable and well established private equity company that had successfully loaned millions of dollars for real estate development projects. Trilateral’s website and marketing materials contained fraudulent misrepresentations about the firm’s past real estate deals. Thomas also misrepresented Trilateral’s finances and on least one occasion e-mailed a fraudulent bank statement purporting to show that Trilateral had over $1.6 million in one account.
Through this scheme, more than 20 individuals and companies from across the country and overseas provided Thomas with more than $1.7 million in advance fees for real estate loans that Thomas never provided. The indictment alleges that Thomas used the advance fees to pay himself and employees, take vacations, fund other business ventures and make charitable contributions.
Thomas was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker.
“This defendant is charged with operating a sophisticated advance fee scheme that took advantage of individuals and businesses who had limited options for financing real estate deals after the recession of 2008,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “This case shows that consumers and small businesses must be careful about those with whom they enter business relationships, and should research beyond the information on websites.”
“It is our sincere hope that today’s federal grand jury indictment will give the many victims involved in this matter assurance that their case will be heard. The FBI will continue to provide significant resources toward investigating and presenting for prosecution those individuals engaged in such wide spread fraud as is alleged in this case,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Brown is prosecuting the case.