Joel Wilson, 31, Saginaw, Michigan, who was extradited from Germany after being on the lam in Europe for more than a year, will proceed to trial for his alleged role in an extensive real estate Ponzi scheme. Wilson allegedly defrauded investors by telling them he would use their funds to purchase distressed properties, then sell them at a profit.
Beginning in 2009, Wilson allegedly scammed investors through his operation of The Diversified Group Advisory Fund LLC, an investment company. Wilson allegedly told investors that he would use their funds to purchase distressed properties in the Saginaw and Bay City, Michigan, areas. The properties would later be refurbished and sold for profit, which would go to investors.
When funds Wilson collected from the sales of the unregistered securities failed to turn a profit, he allegedly used new investor funds to pay returns to previous investors – the trademark of a Ponzi scheme. In addition, Wilson allegedly pocketed approximately $583,000 of the investment funds to pay his personal expenses and acquire personal assets.
The following nine charges were filed against Wilson in Bay City District Court on January 8, 2013:
- One count of Continuing Criminal Enterprise (Racketeering), a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison;
- Three counts of Sale of Unregistered Securities, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison;
- One count of Larceny by Conversion ($20,000 or more), a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison;
- One count of Larceny by Conversion ($1,000-$20,000), a felony punishable by up to five years in prison; and,
- Three counts of Fraudulent Sale of Securities, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Following the felony charges against Wilson, additional victims have come forward with allegations against Wilson and the Diversified Group. Wilson may face additional charges pending the outcome of investigation into those cases.
In September 2013, felony charges were filed against a second person for perpetrating Wilson’s scheme. In March 2014, Shawn Dicken, 40, Bay City, was convicted of nine felonies, one count of Criminal Enterprises, one count of Embezzlement From A Vulnerable Adult, and seven counts of False Pretenses. Dicken was sentenced on June 19, 2014 to 11 years, eight months to 20 years in prison by Midland County Circuit Court before Judge Stephen P. Carras. More than $771,000 in restitution has been sought by the government for Dicken’s victims.
Dicken was convicted of charges concerning her role as a salesperson in the Diversified Group Advisory Firm LLC Ponzi scheme. Dicken allegedly failed to disclose the risks associated with the actual investment in question – a highly leveraged real estate investment that could result in the loss of all of the investors’ money. Many investors risked their life savings. Dicken swindled investors out of more than two million dollars by using dishonest tactics. Investigation revealed Dicken allegedly took an eight percent commission, pocketing approximately $160,000 for herself.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette made the announcement.
“Victims of scam artists deserve to see justice served, and we are confident in our case,” said Schuette. “Financial exploitation is a growing crime in Michigan, and we are cracking down on these con artists. Be skeptical of anyone who promises huge returns for a small investment.”