Restitution unlikely from Wilson “Ponzi scheme”

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U. S. Attorney Press conference
By Stan Welch – Federal officials announced Monday afternoon that Ronnie Gene Wilson, former Anderson County Councilman, pled guilty to two charges of federal mail fraud in connection with a $90 million Ponzi scheme he has operated for more than a decade, according to case documents.

U. S. Attorney Bill Nettles led a procession of local, state and federal law enforcement agents into the press conference held in Greenville Monday afternoon. Nettles stressed that the pleas by Wilson were not part of a plea bargain.

“We had no reason to bargain with Mr. Wilson,” said Nettles. “Our case, put together through a remarkable team effort among the various agencies, was extraordinarily strong. Mr. Wilson simply pled guilty to those charges. We gave up nothing in exchange for those pleas.”

The government’s case centered on its allegations that Wilson sold customers an instrument called a “Silver Investment Account, “wherein the investors did not Take physical possession of silver bought on their behalf. Instead, Wilson claimed to hold his clients’ silver at a Delaware Depository” (information quoted from court documents).

Wilson remains free on $1 million bond. The conditions of his plea agreement, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs earlier Monday, require his continued cooperation with both the investigation and efforts to identify and retrieve assets, to be liquidated in order to compensate victims as fully as possible.

Judge Childs also appointed Greenville attorney Beattie Ashmore as receiver in the case, charging him with seeking, identifying, and seizing all assets in the case, so that they might be liquidated and the proceeds used to compensate the victims as fully as possible.

Beattie acknowledged that the legal term “full restitution” is essentially a pipe dream. “It is impossible to recover all the assets in a situation like this. If I had to characterize the picture before us, I would call it grim, in terms of recovery and compensation.”

Wilson faces the possibility of twenty years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count.