FOREX Ponzi Scammer Hit With Major Prison Sentence

November 16, 2012


According to federal prosecutors and regulators, between August 2004 and June 2009, Jeffery Lowrance, 50,  and others at his direction fraudulently solicited investments for a foreign exchange ("Foreign") trading program.  Among the alleged material misrepresentations was the profitability of the Forex trading of First Capital Savings & Loan, Ltd., an organization which Lowrance incorporated in 2007 in New Zealand  - he owned First Capital and served as its chairman and chief executive officer. The Feds further alleged that Lowrance had fraudulently misstated the expected return on and risk involved with Forex investments and the use of funds raised from investors.

First Capital had taken over Lowrance's business Mentor Investing Group, Inc., initially located in San Diego and later Panama CityPanama.  Both Mentor and First Capital claimed to engage in Forex trading, and offered and sold investments through a network of salesmen and investor referrals.

Utilizing a Ponzi scheme replete with fraudulent account statements to conceal the true financial condition of investments, Lowrance misrepresented to potential investors that they would be paid as much as 4 to 7% monthly interest. In fact, little of the invested funds wound up in Forex trading but, as these things all too often develop, the money was diverted - in this case to pay First Capital's expenses, expenses of unrelated business ventures including a newspaper, and to make payments for Lowrance's own benefit and that of his family and associates

2009 Collapse

Lowrance had moved to Panama around 2006, operated the fraud scheme from Panama City until approximately 2009, at which time the Ponzi scheme collapsed, and he then fled to Peru.  In 2009, Lowrance was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois, and, thereafter, in August 2010, he was indicted on:

  • five counts of mail fraud,
  • one count of wire fraud, and
  • four counts of money laundering.

The Indictment alleged that Lowrance, fraudulently obtained approximately $31 million from 452 investors, resulting in some $17.6 million in losses to 343 investors after deducting Ponzi-type payments. when it collapsed in 2009.USA v. Jeffery Lowrance, 09 CR 00578 (Aug. 5, 2010, N.D. Ill.)

Lowrance was arrested in February 2011 in Peru and extradited to Chicago. On July 15, 2011, Lowrance was arraigned in federal court in Chicago following his arrest and extradition from Peru.

Each count of wire and mail fraud and money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and restitution is mandatory. The court may also impose a fine totaling twice November 4, 2011

In July 2011, Lowrance was named in separate Securities and Exchange Commission in the Northern District of California and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the Northern District of Illinois civil enforcement actions against Lowrance and his businesses.

CFTC Judgment And Injunction

On November 4, 2012, the CFTC obtained a default judgment and permanent injunction in the Northern District of Illinois against Lowrance and First Capital, requiring them to pay jointly and severally a $3.3 million civil monetary penalty and $1.2 million in restitution. Also, the consent order imposes permanent trading and registration bans against Lowrance and First Capital and requires any person or entity providing web-hosting or domain registration hosting services for the defendants to remove from the Internet any websites that solicit customers to trade commodity futures or Forex.

Criminal Sentence

After pleading guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering in July 2012, Lowrance was sentenced in his criminal case on November 15, 2012, to 170 months in prison and ordered to pay $17.64 million restitution.