Ronnie Gene Wilson, age 65, of Easley, was sentenced to 235 months in prison for his involvement in a Silver Ponzi scheme, according to a statement by United States Attorney Bill Nettles on Tuesday.
United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Greenville imposed sentence after hearing from victims, the Government, and Wilson. She also ordered Wilson to pay $57 million in restitution to the 798 victims of the fraud. At the close of the proceedings, Wilson was taken into custody by the United States Marshals.
At the earlier change of plea hearing, the United States Attorney’s Office presented facts showing that beginning in or about 2001 and continuing to early 2012, Wilson operated what is generally described as a “Ponzi scheme.” A Ponzi scheme, in general, is a financial investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation. “A Ponzi scheme”, Mr. Nettles said, “usually entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent.”
One of the investments Wilson offered was a Silver Investment Account wherein the investors did not take physical possession of silver allegedly bought on their behalf. Instead, Wilson claimed to hold his clients’ silver at a Delaware Depository. He showed them a brochure and other documents from the depository and assured them that their silver would be safe there.
Wilson did not buy silver like he was supposed to and lied to clients about their silver being stored in Delaware. He created fictitious account statements for clients that showed their silver holdings when, in fact, he had not bought any silver for them. Wilson also purported to trade the silver by buying at low prices and then selling at peak prices to earn profits. These were in fact phantom trades. Wilson used the money received from clients for his personal benefit. He also used money from newer clients to make pay outs to earlier clients when these earlier clients requested draws on their accounts.
This case was investigated by agents with the United States Secret Service, working in conjunction with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins handled the case.