Thursday, July 15, 2021

Former Unlicensed Investment Adviser Behind Ponzi Scheme Sentenced to Nine Years for Defrauding Clients out of More than $2 Million

 PHILADELPHIA – – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Alexander S. Rowland, 30, formerly of Penns Grove, NJ, was sentenced to nine years in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay more than $2.1 million restitution to his victims by United States District Court Judge Karen Spencer Marston, for defrauding more than 120 clients who thought they were investing money with Rowland’s company, Roaring Investments, Inc., when in reality, Rowland was operating a Ponzi scheme and spent more than $1 million of their money on himself. The defendant was also ordered to forfeit more than $1.4 million in criminal proceeds that he earned, as well as nine firearms that he purchased with fraud proceeds.

Rowland pleaded guilty in April 2021 to four counts of mail fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of securities fraud, and one count of investment adviser fraud. As part of his guilty plea, the defendant admitted that he started Roaring Investments in July 2016 and falsely held himself out to potential investors as a licensed investment adviser who would invest their money in stocks and cryptocurrency, and he promised his clients a minimum return of 25% with potential returns of 50% or higher. None of these statements were true. Through these and other misrepresentations, Rowland was able to convince investors to invest almost $3 million in Roaring Investments. Rowland admitted that he actually only invested a little over $500,000 of the funds he obtained from his clients, and that his investments were a flop, losing more than $100,000. Rowland admitted that he spent more than $1 million of his client’s funds on himself, including payments for vacations and luxury vehicles, jewelry, and more than $47,000 worth of firearms. The defendant further admitted that he used some of the other client funds to pay his office rent, his employee salaries, and to make payments to his earlier clients – in effect, operating a Ponzi scheme.

Rowland also admitted that he lied to his clients by providing them with false account balances that led them to believe that their investments were highly profitable. In fact, Rowland led his clients to believe that the roughly $3 million they had collectively invested had grown to more than $9 million. When the scheme collapsed, Rowland’s clients learned that they had actually collectively lost more than $2 million due to Rowland’s fraud. The defendant further admitted that, after the scheme collapsed, he continued to lie to some of his victims by saying he could not repay them because the FBI was preventing him from accessing his accounts.

“Rowland talked a big game about the returns his company could produce through investments in stock and cryptocurrency, but it was all a lie. Instead, he funded his own lavish lifestyle in a manner no better than a common thief,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “And when he was caught, he continued to lie. The defendant is clearly a determined fraudster who needed to be taken off the street.”

“Alexander Rowland lured investors in by promising astronomical returns on their money,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Instead, he took full advantage of their trust and lived high on the hog at their expense. Ponzi schemes can be simply devastating for their victims. That's why the FBI and our law enforcement partners are so determined to bring this kind of financial fraud to light, and perpetrators like Rowland to justice.” 

“Anytime a taxpayer is encouraged to invest in a product that seems too good to be true, they should be wary,” said Joleen D. Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Office.  “IRS Criminal investigators will continue to use their financial skills to assist their law enforcement partners in stopping harmful investor fraud schemes.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.

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