LAWFUEL – US Law News – A transient who was indicted on fraud and money laundering charges for allegedly bilking several victims out of more than $5 million with promises of huge returns on their investments has surrendered to federal authorities.
Steven M. Ferguson, who formerly resided in Marina Del Rey and Las Vegas, Nevada, was indicted last month on 24 charges that outline a scheme in which investors were told their money would be used to make bridge loans to companies or to invest in projects such as a waste-treatment plant in New Jersey.
Ferguson surrendered himself yesterday morning at United States District Court in Los Angeles. Ferguson made his first court appearance yesterday afternoon, at which time a Magistrate Judge ordered him held pending a detention hearing set for tomorrow morning at 11:00.
According to the indictment, Ferguson solicited money from investors by posing as a successful businessman and promising that investments would yield large returns. However, instead of investing any of the money, Ferguson allegedly misappropriated most of the investors’ money to pay for his lavish lifestyle, which included part ownership of a Lear jet, golf trips to Pebble Beach, a luxury home and meals at the finest restaurants in Southern California.
The indictment, which was returned by a grand jury on December 7, 2006, details the scheme in which Ferguson attempted to shield himself from detection by setting up a series of shell companies and obtaining credit in the names of his victims, including an employee and a consultant.
The fraud scheme was run out of a Beverly Hills shell company called Global Venture Group and, prior to that, a company called Environmental Technologies International Holdings. Ferguson also allegedly used an entity known as S.M. Ferguson & Associates.
One victim discussed in the indictment resided in Georgia and was allegedly told that Ferguson was part of an investment club in which members received 50 percent interest on their investments. After retiring and cashing in his retirement account, the victim gave money to Ferguson and was lulled into believing he had invested in a legitimate business opportunity when Ferguson made some payments. However, after giving Ferguson all of the funds in his retirement account – nearly $400,000 – he was unable to get his money back. The indictment states the Ferguson used the money to, among other things, pay more than $250,000 toward a house at a private golf club in Georgia.
The indictment also states that Ferguson caused a female friend to lie in a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles for the purpose of preventing the United States government from recovering a Las Vegas home purchased by Ferguson with victim proceeds. The female friend was asked by Ferguson to falsely claim that she owned the Las Vegas home.
The indictment specifically charges Ferguson with four counts of mail fraud, five counts of inducing a victim to travel in relation to a fraud scheme, seven counts of money laundering, six counts of obstruction of justice and three counts of tax evasion. If he is convicted of the 24 counts in the indictment, Ferguson could be sentenced to as much as 225 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
This case is the result of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Cazares