Unlicensed Trader Pleads Guilty in Los Angeles for Role in Fraudulent High Yield Investment Program Scheme

Los Angeles, California - An unlicensed trader who solicited $500,000 from undercover FBI agents to invest in a fraudulent high yield investment program pleaded guilty today in federal court in Los Angeles.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California and Assistant Director in Charge Bill Lewis of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.

Jessie Tolbert, 38, of Bastrop, Louisiana, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud.   He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 20, 2014.

According to court documents, in December 2011, Tolbert and his co-conspirators, including Eriq Brye and Greg Preston, placed an advertisement online for an investment opportunity.   Undercover federal agents responded to this advertisement.    During several weeks of email and telephone communications, Tolbert and his co-conspirators informed the agents that a spot recently had opened up on a high yield investment program they purportedly were running and that a $500,000 investment in their program would generate $30 million in 30 days.   Tolbert did not actually run an investment program.

In an effort to induce the undercover agents to invest in the program, Tolbert and his co-conspirators made numerous material misrepresentations.   Specifically, Tolbert falsely and repeatedly guaranteed the success of the proposed trade based on his purported past success in generating similar returns in comparable trades, as well as his success in other investments in the financial industry.   Tolbert had never applied for, nor received, a license with any federal agency related to the financial industry.

Brye is a fugitive.   Preston pleaded guilty in May 2013 for conduct including his role in this investment scheme.   He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 19, 2014.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant Chief Benton Curtis and Trial Attorneys Kyle Maurer and Alex Porter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

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