Contact: AJ Freeney-Ruiz
Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita today praised the teamwork that led to filing of criminal charges against three Marion County residents. The investigations, initiated by Rokita's office, have resulted in twenty-eight criminal counts being filed against three Marion County men for different investment and loan-broker schemes. Twenty-five counts, mostly for Indiana Securities Act violations, are Class C felonies punishable by up to 8 years in prison. The three remaining counts, all for violations of the Indiana Loan Brokers Act, are punishable by up to 4 years in prison.
"These men represent some of worst elements of white collar crime out there," Rokita said. "The cooperation between our office's Prosecution Assistance Unit and the Marion County Prosecutor's office made it possible to take the first steps inholding these men accountable for their crimes, as well as protecting the integrity of commerce in Indiana."
Avon resident Jose Gonzalez, 39, is accused of offering and selling securities to at least six individuals under the mantle of Unicom, Inc., an Indiana corporation which offered investment contract in webphones - a wireless internet and payphone combination - and other wireless internet units. Though neither Gonzalez nor the investment contracts were registered with the Indiana Secretary of State's office as required by law. Gonzalez illegitimately collected more than $55,000 from his alleged victims. In all, Gonzalez faces nineteen class C felonies ranging from registration offenses to charges for fraudulent or deceitful acts and exercising corrupt business influence.
Carmel resident William Cleve Eppley, 50, is accused of offering and selling securities to at least two individuals and faces two counts each of offering or selling an unregistered security, offering or selling a security as an unregistered agent, and for fraudulent or deceitful acts - all class C felonies. Eppley is accused of offering stock in a prepaid medical benefits card plan through a company by the name of POS Benefits Group. Eppley never advised the victims of the lack of registration of the security, and misled his "investors" to believe that their investments would return large amounts of money in short periods of time. Eppley duped his alleged victims for more than $20,000.
Indianapolis resident Dante Pettus, 41, is accused of soliciting loans and additional funds from two individuals in violation of the Indiana Loan Brokers Act. Pettus faces three Class-D felonies involving lack of registration and loan broker fraud. Pettus allegedly solicited loans for World Currency, Inc. by fax, in newspapers, and on the Internet. While Pettus' solicitation promoted no up-front fees, he charged borrowers $3,500 for a surety bond and then extracted additional sums from the borrower for problems with the loan or bonding company. The borrowers were not granted loans and the fees were not returned thus cheating his alleged victims out more than $30,000. These charges are not Pettus' first brush with the law as charges were brought against him in 1993 for wire fraud in a loan scheme that bilked forty-five victims out of $123,000. For the 1993 scam, Pettus served twenty-one months in prison followed by three years supervised probation and an additional eight months in federal prison for violating that probation.
Initiated by the Secretary of State's office after receiving complaints from investors, the investigations led to charges being filed by The Marion County Prosecutor's office this week. "Fighting crime is not limited to pursuing violent predators and drug dealers," Brizzi said. "White collar criminals can be just as destructive. The assistance of Secretary of State Rokita's office has been integral in bringing these men to justice."
"I want to acknowledge the Prosecutor's urgency for pursuing this matter and specifically thank Prosecutor Brizzi for his efforts to fight white collar crime," Rokita said. "I also want to thank Mark Mader, Kim Haskins, and Charlie Williams from my office for their many hours of diligent work on this case. With the creation of the Prosecution Assistance Unit, we have worked tirelessly in our office to ensure that scam artists like these are held accountable for their actions."
The Prosecution Assistance Unit was created by Rokita and his Securities division in 2004 to further existing investigations and facilitate local law enforcement's prosecution of alleged Securities Act violations. The focus of the office is to assist state court prosecutors in an effort to work together at the courthouse and statehouse to root out this white-collar crime.
Rokita reminds Hoosiers there is no such thing as a "completely safe" investment. Investors are encouraged to do their homework and check out investment opportunities by visiting his website, http://www.sos.in.gov/ or by calling 1-800-223-8791. "Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Rokita.