In fact, the bonds, which had been issued by the former Republic of China before Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, were virtually worthless, prosecutors said. The current Chinese government does not recognize the bonds, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission considers them collectibles with no value outside the memorabilia market, prosecutors said.
But investors were not told of the true nature of the bonds, nor were they told that no previous investor had ever obtained the promised returns, prosecutors said.
Many of the clients were elderly and retired, and those who did not have money readily available were encouraged to cash out other investments so that they could participate in the scheme, prosecutors said.
The victims were provided with a “participation agreement” indicating that if the sale of the bonds failed to occur within a certain number of days, the invested funds would be returned, prosecutors said.
Investors were instructed to wire money to various bank accounts held or controlled by Mr. Caldwell. In total, in 2013 and 2014, about $3.5 million was “invested” in the bond deals, prosecutors said.
Mr. Caldwell received about $900,000, prosecutors said, and used some of the money to pay down debts, including personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, prosecutors said.
When investors began questioning why they hadn’t received the promised returns, Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Smith offered excuses, defended the legitimacy of the deals and promised the investors that they would receive their returns, prosecutors said.
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