BULLETIN: Trevor Cook, Minnesota Ponzi Scheme Figure, Pleads Guilty In $190 Million Fraud Case

BULLETIN: (UPDATED 12:35 P.M. EDT (U.S.A.) Trevor G. Cook, implicated in a $190 million Ponzi scheme that pushed tremendous sums of money all over the world and is believed to have fleeced investors out of at least $139 million, has entered a guilty plea in federal court in Minnesota.

No sentencing date has been sent.

Cook, 37, of Apple Valley, faces up to 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion. Cook has been in jail since January, after a finding he had violated a court order by not cooperating with investigators and continuing to spend investors’ money after he was sued by the SEC and CFTC in November. His plea deal is contingent on assisting the government in unraveling the scheme.

Criminal charges were filed against Cook last month.

The guilty plea included acknowledgments by Cook that he lied to investors and was “aided and abetted by others” in a scheme “to defraud no fewer than 1,000 people out of approximately $190 million by purportedly selling investments in a foreign currency trading program,” prosecutors said.

Cook did not have $4 billion under management, as he told investors, prosecutors said.

During his plea hearing this morning, Cook admitted that he diverted investors’ money, deceived Swiss regulators when Crown Forex SA was plunging into bankruptcy in 2008, purchased ownership interest in two trading firms with investors’ money, bought property in Panama with investors’ money, bought the Van Dusen mansion in Minneapolis with investors’ money and raided investors’ money to make personal purchases and pay gambling debts.

“To carry out his scheme, Cook caused false statements to be made to potential investors, including promises that the investment program would generate annual returns of ten to twelve percent, and that trading would present little or no risk to investors’ principal,” prosecutors said. “He also caused material information to be withheld from investors, such as the precarious financial position of Crown Forex, SA” in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said, Cook “withheld the fact that trading at PFG in Chicago generated losses in excess of $35 million between July 1, 2006, and August 31, 2009.”

A company with a name confusingly similar to Crown Forex SA was part of the scheme, prosecutors said.

“In furtherance of the scheme, Cook caused an account to be opened in the name of Crown Forex, LLC, at Associated Bank, which he used for depositing investor funds that he subsequently diverted for his personal use as well as the personal use of others,” prosecutors said. “He also caused statements to be sent to investors that misrepresented the status of their investments. In addition, he caused due-diligence letters to be prepared that falsely represented Oxford Global Advisors as having more than $4 billion in assets under management, and that all accounts were liquid.”

Prosecutors gave credit for the probe, arrest and conviction to the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama created the task force in November 2009.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank J. Magill is the lead prosecutor in the criminal aspect of the case.

In November, the SEC and CFTC sued Cook, along with Pat Kiley. Kiley, 71, formerly hosted a program on Christian radio and is accused civilly of steering people into the international scheme.

Law enforcement officials and prosecutors in Minnesota say they are battling several Ponzi schemes that have fleeced investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller III said criminals increasingly were relying on “shell corporations” and hard-to-trace financial-services products to commit fraud on a massive scale.

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