A Virginia man was sentenced today to over eight years in prison for his role in an investment-fraud scheme in which he and his co-conspirators stole at least $5.7 million from victim investors.
James Michael Johnson, 69, of Richmond, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering on Oct. 30, 2020, after a four-day trial.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Johnson participated in a worldwide scheme through Chimera Group Ltd., a purported investment company based out of the United Kingdom. The fraud operated as an advance-fee scheme in which the defendants acted as promoters who promised to pay the victims a sum of money at a later date in exchange for an up-front payment. Among other misrepresentations, Johnson and his co-conspirators told potential victims that their principal payments would be protected based on letters of credit and other documents that purported to be from a large financial institution. However, these documents were fabricated. The evidence also showed that Johnson and his co-conspirators used escrow attorneys, who were themselves part of the scheme, in order to give the victims the impression that their money would remain secure until the defendants’ promises had been kept. Johnson and his co-conspirators stole at least $5 million from their victims.
Co-defendant James Leonard Smith, 64, of Midlothian, Virginia, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, 2021. Co-defendant Brian Michael Bridge, 46, of London, England, a fugitive, was also charged in the superseding indictment.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh of the Eastern District of Virginia; Inspector in Charge Delany De León-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Criminal Investigations Group; Acting Special Agent in Charge Christopher R. Derrickson of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office; and Chair of the Virginia State Corporation Commission Judith Williams Jagdmann made the announcement.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI’s Richmond Field Office, and Virginia State Corporation Commission investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Christopher Jackson and Vasanth Sridharan of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Moore of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.