Jackson man pleads guilty in $50 million ponzi scheme

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JACKSON, Ohio (WOWK) – A Jackson, Ohio man has pled guilty in U.S. District Court to orchestrating a $50 million dollar Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 46 investors.

Jason E. Adkins, 40, was arraigned in federal court in Columbus on Mnday, April 8th, 2019.

According to the plea agreement, beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2018, Adkins conspired to solicit millions of dollars from investors under false pretenses, failed to invest the funds as promised and misappropriated investors’ funds for his own benefit and the benefit of others.

Adkins and others claimed that they bought and sold over-sized tires commonly known as off-the-road tires, which are used on earth moving equipment and/or mining equipment. Investors were told their money would be used to buy the tires at a steep discount, and that the tires would then be re-sold to a buyer at a much higher rate.

Investors were promised a 15% to 20% rate of return on investment, generally within 180 days. Adkins would sometimes pay the return on investment for the first transaction with investor victims.

“Making good on early investments perpetuated Adkins’s scheme by appearing to corroborate his claims, which helped him attract more investors,” said United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman. “What the victims didn’t know was that Adkins was paying off early investments with the money from later ones. Although the product that Jason Adkins was purporting to buy and sell—oversize tires—was unusual, the operation of his scheme was not. It was right out of Ponzi’s playbook.”

A release from the Department of Justice says two specific investors were paid for their initial investment of $20,000 with Adkins in 2016, they only received $320,000 total from Adkins in return for approximately $1 million worth of investments overall.

Adkins used several methods to conceal the scope of the Ponzi scheme and to minimize associated tax liabilities. The release states he and others sent various amounts of investor funds through a long series of wire transfers to many bank accounts. He created more than 15 corporate bank accounts to receive and distribute fraudulently obtained funds from investors.

Adkins also laundered his ill-gotten proceeds for at least five years, including by investing in front businesses created by co-conspirators.

Adkins bought cars, vacations, and property with the funds from the scheme. For example, he paid for the construction of a pool at his personal residence and also paid more than $20,000 to lease a private jet.

Further, Adkins failed to file individual income tax returns reporting his income derived from the scheme. In 2013, specifically, Adkins earned at least $1.1 million, which caused a tax loss of nearly $237,000 to the IRS.

Adkins has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of wire fraud and six counts related to money laundering – all crimes punishable by up to 20 years in prison – and one count of tax evasion, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

If you believe you’re also a victim of Adkins’s scheme, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Coordinator, Barbara Vanarsdall, at 614-469-5715.

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