Another Massive Ponzi Scheme Probe Under Way In Minnesota; Case Reminiscent Of Alleged Ponzis Of Tom Petters, Matthew Scott And Andy Bowdoin

Gerard Frank Cellette Jr. is suspected of operating a Ponzi scheme that involved tens of millions of dollars and was based on bogus printing contracts, prosecutors in Minnesota said yesterday.

Cellette, 44, of Andover, Minn., owes investors at least $53 million, according to the felony complaint filed by the office of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Prosecutors charged Cellette with 36 counts of fraud in the offer or sale of securities, saying the scheme extended from Minnesota to California, Georgia, and Illinois, and that Cellette has “admitted” he engaged in a pattern of fraudulent conduct from 2005 through September 2009.

News about the Cellette charges broke as accused Ponzi schemer Tom Petters was being tried in Minnesota, amid allegations he orchestrated a $3.65 billion fraud. Minnesotans’ attention has been riveted on the Petters’ case, which includes allegations he fleeced investors by tricking them into believing their money was being used to finance the sale of huge quantities of electronics to big-box retailers.

Prosecutors described the Cellette allegations as a Petters-like operation, only on a smaller scale. The allegations also were reminiscent of allegations against Florida-based AdSurfDaily because Cellette held hotel meetings with participants in Minneapolis to promote the investment program.

Like ASD’s program, Cellette’s program had elements of revenue-sharing, with participants believing profits stemmed from the sale of a legitimate service. ASD was operated by Andy Bowdoin.

Bowdoin’s ASD purported to be an “advertising” company. Federal prosecutors said it sold unregistered securities and engaged in wire fraud and money-laundering while operating a $100 million Ponzi scheme. ASD was popular in Minnesota, members said.

Cellette ran a company known as Minnesota Print Services. In 2004, he sought capital to expand, promising “to split the profits with the investor.” Investors expected a return of about 10 percent in 60 days, prosecutors said.

But “in fairly short order,” prosecutors said, Cellette started selling “fictitious contracts,” paying earlier investors with money received from “new investors for new fictitious contracts.”

Eventually Cellette began to offer the contracts through Steve Quarles, a California man, prosecutors said. They described Quarles as “the brother of a friend of a previous Minnesota investor.”

Cellette “reports that he has never told Quarles, or anyone other than his attorney and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, that fictitious contracts were the primary foundation” of the scheme.

Prosecutors said Cellette is cooperating in the probe.

The allegations against Cellette also are reminiscent of the allegations against Matthew Scott in Illinois.

The FBI and federal prosecutors said last week that Scott told investors their funds would be used to purchase or finance the purchase of high-speed commercial printers that would be sold to third-party buyers at a profit. The machines were said to be valued in excess of $100,000, and Scott claimed his mark-up of 20 percent led to big profits, the FBI said.

Scott, 50, of Elmhust, Ill., was charged with mail fraud. His Chicago-area company, Gelsco, neither purchased nor financed such printers, the FBI said.

“Instead, Scott allegedly fabricated false purchase orders, invoices, promissory notes and other documents that he provided to investors,” the FBI said.

The Scott scheme collected at least $28 million between early 2000 and March 2009 before unraveling, the FBI said. At least 60 investors were fleeced. The initial loss estimate was pegged at $4.5 million.

“Throughout the duration of the alleged scheme, Scott had to continually raise funds from investors to make payments to earlier investors, all of which he concealed and intentionally failed to disclose to new and old investors alike,” the FBI said.

All of the cases — Petters, Cellette, Scott and ASD — lead to troubling questions about how many other companies are engaging in similar schemes that have not been detected.

Read the allegations against Cellette in the Minnesota case.

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2 Responses to “Another Massive Ponzi Scheme Probe Under Way In Minnesota; Case Reminiscent Of Alleged Ponzis Of Tom Petters, Matthew Scott And Andy Bowdoin”

  1. With all these Ponzi busts, the Fed’s may have to establish a penal institution just for the scammer/ promoters…maybe not. If all of them were to get together under the same roof, even in prison, no telling what they would collectively scheme up to do upon release.

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