The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced an emergency asset freeze to halt a Ponzi scheme involving U.S. and New Zealand-based companies peddling sham investment opportunities ranging from a bank trading program to kidney dialysis clinics.
The SEC alleges that Christopher A.T. Pedras, who has residences in Turlock, Calif., and New Zealand, misled his initial investors into believing they were investing in a profitable trading platform in which his company served as an intermediary between global banks. When Pedras and his companies encountered difficulty paying the promised 4 to 8 percent monthly returns, they began steering investors to a different investment program to purportedly increase the value of their investment by 80 percent by funding kidney dialysis clinics in New Zealand. Pedras’s business partner Sylvester M. Gray II and lead sales representative Alicia Bryan helped him solicit investors for both programs, and the money was never invested as promised. Earlier investors were paid supposed returns with funds received from newer investors, and Pedras stole more than $2 million and spent another $1.2 million on sales agents.
According to the SEC’s complaint unsealed late Friday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Pedras raised more than $5.6 million from at least 50 investors in the U.S. since July 2010 by selling securities in two phases. Pedras, Gray, and Bryan first solicited investors for their Maxum Gold Small Cap Trade Program in which Pedras’s company Maxum Gold purportedly serves as the intermediary between banks that can’t legally trade with each other directly, so they use Maxum Gold’s trade platform to do so indirectly. Maxum Gold purports to share portions of the trading profits with investors.