“Let me make it simple: You rip people off, you get indicted.”–U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins
A North Carolina man who once served as an airline pilot has been charged with operating a Ponzi scheme disguised as a wireless internet venture that took in more than $44 million from victims. Daniel Harold Williford, 55, was indicted on one count of securities fraud, one count of wire fraud, and five counts of money laundering. Both securities fraud and wire fraud carry a maximum twenty-year prison term, while money laundering carries a potential ten-year term. The counts also carry potential criminal monetary penalties of up to $5.5 million.
According to authorities, Williford operated several entities, including Velocenet, Broadband Leasing, and Connect Inc. Beginning in January 2007, Williford solicited potential investors by promising significant returns through investments in wireless internet equipment, internet towers, and other facilities and equipment. For example, Williford promised one investor significant returns through an investment in what Williford termed the “Velo JV-Boone Project,” thorugh which Williford would purportedly acquire telecom accounts and facilities. In total, Williford used the entities to raise at least $44 million from hundreds of investors.
However, less than $8 million of the $44 million raised from investors was used by Williford as promised. The remainder – more than $32 million – was misappropriated by Williford to make Ponzi-style payments to investors, as well as a variety of personal expenses that included the payment of credit card bills and even funding his son’s college tuition at Georgia Tech.