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St. George man pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme

Fraud » Lee Black took in $21M with promises of high returns, little risk.

First Published Jan 10 2014 02:42 pm • Last Updated Jan 11 2014 08:01 pm

A St. George man pleaded guilty Friday to two federal charges related to his operation of a Ponzi scheme that took in about $21 million from more than 50 victims.

Arvin Lee Black II, 34, is scheduled for sentencing May 9 before U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby. Black could receive up to 20 years in prison on a wire fraud charge and up to 10 years for money laundering, plus fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

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Black’s plea agreement recommends a sentence of 5 years and 3 months, though Shelby isn’t bound by those terms.

Black ran a stock day trading company called Sole Group LLC through which he enticed investors with promises of returns of as much as 5 percent a month with little risk.

Instead, Black relied on taking in money from new investors that he used to pay off earlier ones in what’s known as a Ponzi scheme. Black returned about $7 million to investors, claiming they were legitimate returns. As part of his plea deal agreed to be liable for restitution to investors of $13.7 million.

He also used funds for personal expenses, including transferring money from investors directly into a personal account.

Black had business ties to Jason and Todd Vowells, brothers and St. George businessmen, according to court records. A court-appointed receiver of I Works, the company owned by another St. George businessman, Jeremy Johnson, has alleged the Vowells helped Johnson try to hide money that came from their online poker processing business eventually shutdown by banking officials.

The receiver was appointed after federal regulators sued I Works, Johnson and others in 2010 alleging they had deceived consumers. The case is still pending.

Black lost about $8 million in trading funds from Vowell-related companies, according to court documents.

tharvey@sltrib.com


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Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib



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