Feds Charge Santa Barbara Man with $12 Million Ponzi Scheme

Darrell Aviss, 63, Allegedly Used Stolen Funds on Luxury Cars, Expensive Watches, and U2 Tickets

Darrell Aviss during a 2008 TV interview on overseas investment strategies. | Credit: Courtesy

A federal grand jury this Tuesday indicted 63-year-old Santa Barbara resident Darrell Aviss for allegedly running a $12 million Ponzi scheme that spanned over eight years and bought him, among other things, luxury cars, expensive watches, trips to Monaco, more than $100,000 in purchases at a Santa Barbara nightclub, and 20 tickets to a U2 concert and afterparty.

Aviss was charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering. He’d reportedly promised his victims ― most of whom were elderly ― that their money would be used to buy annuities from Swiss insurance companies, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to Mrozek, Aviss ran the scheme from at least 2012 through last summer. Aviss allegedly told his victims that the annuities he offered were safe and secure, and, in some instances, would pay interest rates ranging from 5 to 7 percent. Most of the $12 million in stolen funds came from a single individual, Mrozek said. Aviss had paid some of it back to the other victims over the years to keep the scheme running.

The indictment charges Aviss with five counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison; one count of concealment money laundering, which has a maximum sentence of 20 years; and five counts of laundering criminal proceeds in excess of $10,000, each of which carries a potential sentence of 10 years.



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