Man Pleads Guilty for Role in Texas Ponzi Scheme

Inside Subprime: April 2, 2019

By Lindsay Frankel

A Texas man has pleaded guilty to his part in a Ponzi scheme that allegedly cheated hundreds of investors out of more than $364 million. Cameron Jezierski was an accomplice to two other defendants, Kevin Merrill of Towson, MD, and Jay Ledford of Texas, all of whom were indicted in September of 2018 in one of the largest Ponzi schemes charged in Maryland, which is thought to have harmed more than 400 victims.

Jezierski’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors may reduce the maximum 20 year prison sentence he faces. He may also pay a fine of $116,435. He was involved in the scheme for around 10 months, according to the plea agreement, the Washington Post reports.

The three men made their investors believe that they had a profitable investment operation from buying and selling consumer debt portfolios. They claimed to buy up credit card, auto loan, and student loan debts with potentially seizable assets, but instead of selling those debts to a third party, the trio created fake bank statements and wire transfers, pocketing the money or using it to pay off previous investors.

The defendants made lavish purchases with the proceeds from the scheme, from luxury cars and homes to diamond and platinum jewelry. Court documents revealed how investors were duped: after wiring money, they would receive fake documents showing the debt portfolios the money had been used for. But prosecutors say the money would either go to earlier investors or be used personally by the defendants. For example, court records show that Merrill used $400,000 from an investor to make an initial payment on a $2 million luxury vehicle.

Jezierski confirmed in the plea agreement that, starting in 2017, he was involved in “a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property from investors by materially false and fraudulent promises,” and that he “knowingly and willfully” worked as an accomplice to the other defendants.

Jezierski was drawn into the scheme after working for Ledford at a financial consultancy in Texas. Ledford promised Jezierski, 28, that he would become a millionaire by the time he turned 30. Jezierski submitted false data to avoid angering Ledford, according to a U.S. attorney. And Ledford allegedly pushed Jezierski to hide his illegal actions.

The trio’s fraudulent activity was discovered when Merrill proposed an investment opportunity and provided fraudulent business documents to an undercover FBI agent.

“The FBI takes our responsibility to investigate and pursue those who commit fraud for personal gain very seriously,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division.  “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who use illegal means and criminal behavior to take advantage of others. We are committed to protecting investors from the illegal and deceptive practices Mr. Merrill and Ledford used to defraud investors out of their hard earned money and savings.”

Merrill and Ledford will stand trial in July. They face sentences of up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud. Jezierski is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12, 2019.

For more information on scams, predatory lenders and payday loans, see our city and state financial guides including states and cities like California, the District of Columbia, FloridaIllinois, Texas and more.