Note: This story appears in the Thursday, April 11 newspaper on Page A3.
JACKSON — A Jackson man agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to charges related to what federal prosecutors are describing as a $50 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded at least 46 investors.
Jason E. Adkins, 40, agreed to plead guilty to three counts of wire fraud and six counts related to money laundering — all crimes punishable by up to 20 years in prison — and one count of tax evasion which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.
A plea agreement in the case is on file but not yet public record, however other court records indicate that a pre-sentencing investigation will be ordered and that Adkins will remain on bond pending sentencing.
According to the plea agreement, as described in the news release, Adkins is accused of conspiring to solicit millions of dollars from investors under false pretenses, failing to invest the funds as promised and misappropriating investors’ funds for his own benefit and the benefit of others.
Adkins and others claimed they bought and sold over-sized tires, the type used on earth-moving and mining equipment, with investors being told their money would be used to buy the tires at a steep discount, with the tires to then be sold at a much higher rate. Investors were promised a 15 to 20 percent rate of return, which sometimes was paid for the first transaction with investors, according to the news release.
“Making good on early investments perpetuated Adkins’ scheme by appearing to corroborate his claims, which helped him attract more investors,” Glassman said. “What victims didn’t know was that Adkins was paying off early investments with money from later ones. Although the product that Adkins was purporting to buy and sell — oversized tires — was unusual, the operation of his scheme was not. It was right out of Ponzi’s playbook.”
Ponzi schemes are named after Charles Ponzi, who duped investors in the 1920s with a postage stamp speculation scheme, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s website.
Adkins bought cars, vacations and property with funds from the scheme, the news release states.
Adkins was accused of using several methods to conceal the scope of the Ponzi scheme and to minimize tax liabilities, including sending investors’ funds through a long series of wire transfers to many bank accounts, the news release states.
The scheme began in 2012 and continued through 2018, according to authorities.
Also, Adkins was accused of failing to file individual income tax returns reporting income from the scheme. In 2013, specifically, Adkins earned at least $1.1 million, which caused a tax loss of nearly $237,000 to the IRS.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking that anyone who believes they might also be a victim of the scheme to call Victim Witness Coordinator Barbara Vanarshall at (614) 469-5715.