Three metro Atlanta men have been indicted on federal fraud charges for their roles in an alleged scheme to lure investors into buying Iraqi currency.
Tyson Rhame and James Shaw, of Atlanta, and Frank Bell, of Decatur, are each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as several counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.
Rhame and Shaw are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.
A Kentucky man, Terrence Keller, also was indicted.
The indictments come several months after authorities filed an initial complaint and raided locations related to Atlanta-based Sterling Currency Group.
Rhame and Shaw were the co-owners of Sterling Currency Group, which at one time billed itself as one of the largest sellers and exchangers of the Iraqi dinar in the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta.
It promoted the idea that the dinar would be revalued in the wake of the Iraq war, potentially netting huge gains for those who bought up the currency.
“These defendants are alleged to have defrauded investors by spreading misinformation about the investment potential of the Iraqi dinar in order to profit from sale of the currency,” U. S. Attorney John Horn said. “We urge anyone who believes they were impacted by this scheme to contact the FBI.”
According to Horn’s office, Sterling Currency did business as Sterling Online Processing Services and Dinar Banker.
The indictment alleges Sterling paid Keller more than $160,000 to “pump” dinar investments on his internet-based group known as The Get Team. The promotional activities netted Sterling “millions of dollars in dinar and other currency sales,” according to prosecutors.
In a statement, Sterling Currency Group said the government’s case is “without any merit.”
“Sterling, a lawful business which sold a lawful product, was owned and operated by law-abiding and conscientious individuals, two of whom served extensively in the United States Armed Forces,” a statement from the company said. “These executives worked hard to ensure Sterling complied with all state and federal laws and regulations. This included investing enormous resources into its compliance program and maintaining extensive legal and other professional counsel to ensure it was fully compliant with all applicable laws.”
The indictment says Sterling grossed more than $600 million in revenue from sales of Iraqi dinar and other currencies between 2010 and mid-2015, while Rhame and Shaw received more than $180 million from the company.
The government is seeking forfeiture of “millions of dollars held in financial accounts, foreign currencies, three private airplanes, three automobiles, numerous corporate and trust entities, as well as real property in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Iowa,” the announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Rhame, 51, and Shaw, 53, are noted members of their communities. An Air Force Academy graduate, Rhame ran a family foundation that got notice for donations to DeKalb County schools. Shaw and his wife donated 100 acres for the Savannah College of Art and Design’s equestrian center, and the pavilion is named for them, according to news reports.