A Virginia man was sentenced today in the Eastern District of Virginia to 14 years in prison for his role in an investment fraud scheme in which he and his co-conspirators stole approximately $5.7 million from victim investors.
According to court documents, James Leonard Smith, 65, of Midlothian, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering on Oct. 30, 2020, after a four-day trial.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from around 2014 to 2017, Smith participated in a worldwide scheme through Chimera Group Ltd., a purported investment company based out of the United Kingdom. The fraud operated as an advance-fee scheme in which the defendants acted as promoters who promised to pay the victims a sum of money at a later date in exchange for an up-front payment. Among other misrepresentations, Smith and his co-conspirators told potential victims that their principal payments would be protected based on letters of credit and other documents that purported to be from a large financial institution. However, these documents were fabricated, sometimes with the assistance of Smith himself. The evidence also showed that Smith and his co-conspirators used escrow attorneys, who were themselves part of the scheme, in order to give the victims the impression that their money would remain secure until the defendants’ promises had been kept. Smith and his co-conspirators stole at least $5.7 million from their victims.
Co-conspirator Stuart Jay Anderson, 54, of Aliso Viejo, California, an escrow attorney involved in the scheme, was sentenced to four years in prison on Dec. 3, 2020. Co-defendant James Michael Johnson, 70, of Richmond, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison on March 5. Co-defendant Brian Michael Bridge, 48, of London, England, a fugitive, was also charged in the superseding indictment, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh of the Eastern District of Virginia; Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Criminal Investigations Group; and Special Agent in Charge Stanley M. Meador of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI’s Richmond Field Office, and the Virginia State Corporation Commission investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Vasanth Sridharan and Christopher Jackson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Moore of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section plays a pivotal role in the Justice Department’s fight against white collar crime around the country.