8 November – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A Florida man was sentenced today to 155 months in prison for running a fraud scheme in which he promoted a fraudulent investment program to members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and collected more than $6.5 million from over 250 victims.
Winston George Ross, 57, of Apopka, Florida, was sentenced this afternoon by United States District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles. In addition to the nearly 13-year prison term, Judge Real ordered Ross to pay more than $4.3 million in restitution to his victims.
In July, Ross was convicted by a federal jury of 11 felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. The evidence presented during a week-long showed that Ross operated a company called 4J Financial Services LLC, and that Ross made a series of presentations to members of the Church and other potential victims across the United States. During his seminars, Ross encouraged attendees to incorporate themselves so they could avoid paying federal income taxes. For a fee of $600, Ross would assist in preparing paperwork to become incorporated.
At his presentations, Ross also promoted three investment programs. For two of the investments, Ross acted as a middleman, collecting money that would be invested by others. But the third program, the “10% Program,” was managed by Ross out of his Apopka residence. Ross told investors that the 10% Percent program was completely risk-free and it provided guaranteed returns of at least 10 percent a month for 15 months. Investors who deposited more than $100,000 would be paid 12 percent a month, those who invested more than $300,000 were guaranteed 15 percent a month. Ross encouraged victims to refinance their homes or to take cash advances on their credit cards so they could invest in the 10% Program.
Ross’ management of the money invested in the 10% Program generated little, if any, income. Ross made 10 percent interest payments to some investors, but that money was either their initial investment or came from money deposited by subsequent investors. Much of the money was lost to investments in Internet sites or was spent by Ross.
The scheme ran from August 2001 until March 2003 when Ross ran out of money to make the promised interest payments. When the scheme collapsed, investors in the 10% Program lost at least $3.5 million.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Douglas A. Axel