BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Officials from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland are trying to identify victims who may have lost money as part of a $28 million Ponzi scheme based in Maryland.
In a news release, the FBI said three people, Dennis Jali, John Frimpong and Arley Johnson, got or tried to get investors to give them a total of more than $28 million, which the trio said would be invested in cryptocurrency and foreign exchange markets.
Instead, the trio, who allegedly posed as pastors, is accused of using the money for personal expenses and to repay past investors.
“It should be noted that many of these investors were not sophisticated in the investment markets,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said. “They invested what represented essentially their life savings with the defendants.”
All three have been arrested. They were charged in July.
Officials previously said Jali owned and served as the CEO of a Maryland-based investment company, The Smart Partners LLC, which did business as 1st Million Dollars. Frimpong was the company’s chief marketing officer.
As part of the scheme, the trio posed as pastors and attended church events to get investments from churchgoers, claiming their work “was in furtherance of God’s mission in that it helped churches and their members achieve personal wealth and financial freedom,” according to an indictment that was unsealed in August. They also held other events at hotels and event spaces over a nearly two-year period from August 2017 to May 2019.
“The defendants preyed on people by claiming that they were pastors in churches and they took advantage of many of the victims’ affiliations with their churches,” Lenzner said.
The agency said the scheme targeted people in multiple states, including Florida, Georgia, New York, Texas and possibly others.
“That’s one of the purposes here, to get information on who may potentially be a victim so that they can be made whole and that restitution can be provided to them,” Alfred Watson, of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, said.
The FBI is asking anyone with information in the case or who may be a victim to contact them. More details are available here.