Bryan Noel, 40, Hendersonville, North Carolina, former owner of Certified Estate Planners, Inc., was convicted by a jury of criminal charges that include mail fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, money laundering conspiracy, making a false oath in connection with a bankruptcy proceeding, and making false statements to a bank. The criminal charges were filed in connection with Noel’s investment scheme that resulted in losses of millions of dollars of innocent investors’ monies.
According to court documents and evidence at trial, Noel owned an estate planning firm in Hendersonville, North Carolina, that targeted elderly retirees. Noel would hold seminars at local restaurants, offering a free lunch and pitching an investment program to the retirees that included a promise that their funds would be pooled and invested in the stock market. In fact, the evidence showed that, after collecting approximately $10 million for dozens of retirees, Noel diverted more than $4 million of the retirees’ funds to his risky start-up companies, including a mineral exploration venture in Peru and a composite lumber company, both of which failed. Investors were not told of these diversions.
The evidence at the trial further showed that in August 2006, Noel then applied for a home mortgage and home equity loan on his house totaling more than $1 million. To get these loans, Noel misrepresented his monthly income and falsely deny that he was a defendant in any lawsuits (when he was at that time a defendant in three suits).
The evidence at trial also showed that, as the scheme began to falter, Noel sought and obtained a $1.25 million loan from Carolina First Bank in January 2006 by representing that the funds would be used to purchase equipment. In fact, Noel intended to, and did, invest those funds in the stock market to generate sufficient funds to replace the diverted retiree funds. Ultimately, however, more than $300,000 of these funds were lost in the stock market.
Finally, when these schemes all collapsed, the evidence showed that Noel filed for bankruptcy and failed to disclose his $73,000 BMW on his bankruptcy petition, instead reporting a 10-year-old pickup truck with 131,000 miles on it.
Bryan Noel is presently in local federal custody where he has remained since June of 2009. Noel will remain in local federal custody until he is sentenced by The Honorable Richard L. Voorhees, U.S. District Judge. A date for the sentencing hearing has not yet been determined.
Following an investigation conducted by the FBI, Noel was indicted federally in June 2009 on 27 criminal counts. In October 2009 six additional criminal counts were added to the charges, which included money laundering conspiracy, bank fraud, making false statements to a bank, and money laundering. Noel is currently facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the conspiracy and mail fraud counts, alone. Each count further carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Edward R. Ryan of the Western District of North Carolina and Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of Federal Bureau of Investigation Operations in North Carolina.
The case was investigated by the FBI, and the prosecution was handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melissa Rikard and Matthew Martens of the Charlotte U.S. Attorneys Office, Western District of North Carolina.