Fugitive Arrested for Running Real Estate Ponzi Scheme

Allison Tussey —  January 23, 2014 — Leave a comment

Joel Wilson, 31, Saginaw, Michigan, has been arrested for his alleged role in an extensive Michigan Ponzi scheme. the defendant allegedly defrauded at least three Michigan victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and has been on the lam in Europe for more than a year.

As investigators closed in on his operation in late 2012, Wilson fled the country for Germany. Multiple criminal charges were filed against Wilson in January 2013 and worked with federal officials to issue a warrant for his arrest in Europe. On January 20, 2014, Wilson was arrested by Dresden Police. On January 21, 2014, the Michigan Attorney General’s office received notification from INTERPOL that Wilson had been arrested by European law enforcement. The paperwork to begin the extradition process have been filed..

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 area and Bay City 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 $47,000 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.

Wilson fled the United States for Germany to avoid criminal prosecution. Following the filing of 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 allegedly perpetrating Wilson’s scheme. Shawn Dicken, 40, Bay City, Michigan, for her alleged 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 allegedly 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.

The following charges were filed against Shawn Dicken in the 74th District Court in Midland County:

• One count of Criminal Enterprises – Conducting, a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine; and,

• One count of Embezzlement From A Vulnerable Adult – $50,000 Or More But Less Than $100,000, a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine or three times the value, the defendant must admit the amount, or it must be greater; and,

• One count of Securities – Fraudulent Sales, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison or a $20,000 fine; and,

• Seven counts of False Pretenses – $1,000 Or More But Less Than $20,000, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

Dicken was arraigned on September 18, 2013 before Judge John Hart in Midland County’s 75thDistrict Court. Judge Hart ordered a $1,000,000 cash or surety bond and ordered Dicken to surrender her passport and not to engage as an investment advisor. She scheduled for a jury trial March 3, 2014 before Judge Carras in 42nd Circuit Court.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the arrest.

“Victims of scam artists deserve to see justice served, and we will fight as long as it takes,” 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.”

“We appreciate the assistance United States Department of Justice INTERPOL Division provided to bring this case closer to securing justice for the victims of this Ponzi scheme.”

Allison Tussey

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