You ever wonder about all those Automated Teller Machines ("ATMs") - you know, maybe they would be a great investment? After all, everyone needs cash from time to time and if you could buy an ATM, get it placed in just the perfect spot, why, hey, you got yourself a veritable cash machine -- the mother of all investments!
Vance Moore II and Walter Netschi apparently had a vision and a dream. They realized that ATMs presented the possibility of a great investment. They figured that a lot of clever foks, just like you, might line up for the chance to own their own ATM.
Unfortunately, Moore's and Netschi's vision was to steal your money. Their dream was to get away with it.
From 2005 through January 2008, Moore and Netschi solicited over $80 million from investors seeking to get a piece of the ATM pie. The ATMs were supposed to be installed in hot spots nationwide, such as convenience stores, gas stations, malls, and hotels. Moore and Netschi dazzled their investors with images of all the fees that would be charged for each case withdrawal.
4,000 ATMs were sold in this scam. Investors got monthly reports from Moore, along with monthly payments. Unfortunately, the reports contained false information . The payments? Well, that's another story - the cash wasn't from the ATM fees but simply money siphoned from new investors. You got it: a classic Ponzi.
Alas, as with many visions and dreams, things start to get cloudy and often end in a nightmare. Some investors began to pick up on irregularities in their monthly revenue reports and started asking questions. Moore apparently provided answers - and they were quite fanciful.
In the fall of 2006, one particularly inquisitive investor visited his ATM at the hotel in Florida where Moore told him it was located and where Moore's company was supposedly servicing the machine. Not finding his ATM, the investor asked the hotel for its location and was informed that no such ATM existed. When confronted with the missing ATM, Moore lied, claiming to the investor that it had been relocated elsewhere in Florida.
On September 21, 2010, Moore, 55, of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Netschi, 62, of McKinney, Texas, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. Each count in the Indictment carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss derived from the offense. The Indictment sought $80 million in forfeiture from Moore and Netschi.
On October 18, 2010, Moore pled guilty in Manhattan federal court and faced a maximum penalty of 200 years in prison, and a fine of over $2,500,000. Moore agreed to a money judgment of $50 million and to specifically forfeit his right, title, and interest in properties located in North Carolina and Florida.
On November 12, 2010, after a three-week trial, Netschi was found guilty by a federal jury on all ten counts of an Indictment charging him with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. Netschi faces a maximum penalty of 200 years in prison, and a fine of over $2,500,000, in addition to forfeiture of the proceeds of the crime. Netschi is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22, 2011.
On February 28, 2011, Moore, 57, was sentenced to 97 months in prison.
Bill Singer's monthly analysis of key Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") regulatory cases for January and February 2011 is now available at: http://www.rrbdlaw.com/enforcement-actions/index.php?cid=1
ATMs: We have a couple of cases involving shenanigans involving ATMs:
STOCK TO CASH PROGRAM: A rash of cases involving a program whereby customers entered into a lending arrangement pledging their stock to get cash loan. Millions of dollars later, it looks like a number of registered persons didn't do their homework:
AWAY ACCOUNTS: You work at X but you have a brokerage account at Y. You may also have some problems with FINRA if you don't have permission for the Y account and you haven't told X about it:
CREDIT CARDS: Mine, yours, ours . . . and someone else's:
DECEASED: The trouble with the dead is that sometimes they reach out from the grave: