This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Two men are facing federal criminal charges in Utah for the alleged fraudulent operation of what has been described as pyramid schemes within Ponzi schemes and smaller Ponzis within a larger one that cost investors tens of millions of dollars.
Robert L. Holloway, 54, a former Salt Lake area resident, was indicted on charges he directed a fraudulent commodities trading venture that took in at least $25 million. He was arrested Thursday in San Diego on four counts of wire fraud and one of filing a false tax return for his 2005-07 operation of U.S. Ventures LC, which he claimed used special software to make trades that resulted in profits of 0.8 percent a day.
In reality, according to the indictment handed up in Salt Lake City, Holloway lost more than $10 million in trading and made "profit distributions" by using money from newer investors to pay off initial ones, or what is known as a Ponzi scheme. He also allegedly misappropriated investor funds for personal expenses, including $1.2 million in 2006 alone.
In a second indictment in U.S. District Court for Utah, a Houston man who allegedly fed funds from investors to Holloway also was charged with wire fraud.
Robert J. Andres, 60, was arrested in Houston. The indictment alleged he also ran a Ponzi scheme that raised $71 million from investors for his Winsome Investment Trust from 2005 to January of this year. He also allegedly misappropriated $2.2 million in investor funds for personal use, the indictment says.
Both men were granted bail and are required to appear in Salt Lake City for hearings on their cases.
According to a receiver's report in a lawsuit against U.S. Ventures by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Holloway took in about $50 million after founding the company in 1999. About half of that, $25 million, came from Andres, according to court-appointed receiver Wayne Klein, a Salt Lake City attorney.
The report said Holloway skimmed $3.3 million from investors.
Pat Huff, of Lehi, who invested in Winsome after taking out $25,000 in equity in her home, said Friday she was "excited" that authorities had taken action against the pair.
"I'm grateful for the investigators who finally took us seriously and are doing something about it."
Huff said she had been contacted by people who had lost their homes and seen their marriages end after investing with Andres.
"I got calls from investors who told me they were living on the street."
Klein said Friday that he estimates there were 425 investors in the U.S. and Canada between the two companies, with about eight Winsome investors from Utah and another 10 to 15 Utahns who invested directly in U.S. Ventures.
Klein alleged money was fed to U.S. Ventures from other entities, which acted like multilevel marketing companies, with commissions flowing through various levels as investors recruited others into the scheme. Some of those other entities also were Ponzi schemes, he said.
According to court documents, about $5 million of U.S. Ventures money came from two other companies, Novus Technologies LLC and RCH2, both of which have been sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. U.S. District Judge Tena Campell called Novus a Ponzi scheme in a ruling imposing sanctions on owner Ralph W. Thompson.
Klein said he has filed 22 lawsuits to recover money and given notice of 42 more.
One of the things Klein said he found out was that a "Wild Oats" restaurant listed on Winsome documents turned out to be a strip club Andres was trying to buy for $16 million.
Winsome also claimed a number of questionable and even wildly fantastic assets, including 40 percent interest in a "Safekeeping Receipt" from the Union Bank of Switzerland, which it said represented 500 metric tons of gold having a face value of $7.7 billion, Klein said.