Former Lincoln teacher indicted in $1 million Ponzi scheme
A former Lincoln County schoolteacher has been indicted on federal charges of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that took over $1 million from investor victims including fellow teachers.
Carl David Wright, 52, of 3062 Highway 73, Iron Station, was charged Monday in U.S. District Court with one count of mail fraud in connection with the Ponzi scheme.
Wright has agreed to plead guilty to the mail fraud charge. A former professional baseball player, Wright retired in March from Lincoln County Schools.
The indictment alleges that Wright engaged in a scheme to defraud victims by making a series of false and fraudulent representations, omissions of material facts and deceptive half-truths. According to authorities, beginning in August 2008 and continuing through March 2013, Wright executed a Ponzi scheme by inducing victims to invest in a “Commodity Investment Group” based in Cherryville, which Wright purportedly managed.
According to authorities, Wright collected over $1 million from investor victims through false and fraudulent misrepresentations. Court records show that Wright lied to investors by promising a 20-30% return on their investments over a short period of time when Wright knew that this return was not possible. Wright also misled his victims by falsely representing to his victims that his Commodities Investment Group would invest money in hedge funds, commodities and Quick Trip stores. Court records indicate that Wright falsely told his victims that the Commodities Investment Group owned a significant number of Quick Trip gas stations and had even sold one for $1.6 million. (One source told news@norman that Wright told a local investor that he was involved in the QT station in Denver, which he was not).
According to court records, Wright did not invest the more than $1 million he collected from investor victims as promised. Instead, he used the money to make Ponzi-style payments to other victims and to fund his personal lifestyle, according to court records. In some instances, Wright took a large percentage of victim money immediately upon the initial deposit. Court records show that Wright was known to carry a significant amount of cash in a black duffel bag. Court records also show that Wright required many victims to invest by cashier’s checks. Many local victims would invest by meeting Wright in a parking lot in Cherryville, while out-of-state victims would mail money for investment to Wright’s post office box in Cherryville.
According to court documents, over $500,000 in principle owed to the victims has been misappropriated by Wright, and as of March 2013, Wright had less than $1,000 left of the investors’ fund.
Wright’s initial appearance and plea hearing have not been set yet by the court. At sentencing, Wright faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea agreement, Wright has agreed to pay full
restitution to his victims, the amount of which will be determined by the court at sentencing.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. Wright is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The indictment was announced by Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina,
Greg McLeod, director of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), and Keith Fixel, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS.
In a related action, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also filed a civil enforcement action against Wright.
Wright has never been registered with the CFTC.
Wright taught Career and Technical Education at Lincolnton Middle School (formerly Lincolnton Jr. High) from August 1986 to March 2013 when he abruptly retired.
In a bio posted on a former website operated by a painting contracting company he owned, Wright stated that he played professional baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles after graduating from Cherryville High School.
While playing baseball, he said he obtained his BS degree in business from the University of New York and later entered the teaching profession.
He is member of the Cherryville Sports Hall of Fame and is a member of the sports boosters at North Lincoln High School.
Investors, Be Wary
A Denver financial counselor offers some simple advice if you are approached with a get rich quick scheme.
“As I have always said, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” said Patrick Elmore of Raymond James Financial Services.
“ In my opinion, the reason Ponzi schemes are so numerous and successful is because people chase the dream. Everyone wants to believe they have stumbled upon something unique that will enable them to get rich quick. The hard reality is that building a large nest egg doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of time and patience. In the case of David Wright, 20 percent returns in 60 days is impossible and, unfortunately, it is the investor that ends up paying the price.”