Santa Barbara Man Involved in $12 Million Ponzi Scheme Charged with Tax Evasion

Man Allegedly Failed to Pay More Than $3 Million in Federal Taxes, Hid Bank Accounts

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

The Santa Barbara man who allegedly stole $12 million from victims as part of an eight-year-long Ponzi scheme now faces new charges of failing to pay more than $3 million in federal income tax and concealing bank accounts in Monaco. 

Darrell Arnold Aviss, 64, has been charged with three counts of tax evasion, six counts of failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts, and one count of aggravated identity theft, on top of his original charges of five counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering. He is scheduled to go on trial July 26, 2022. 

Aviss was arrested in June 2021 and released in September 2021 on a $200,000 bond. Between 2012 and 2020, Aviss allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme that promised to invest victims’ money in annuities from Swiss insurance companies. Most of the victims were over the age of 60, and most of the $12 million he stole came from a single victim, according to court documents. Aviss allegedly used none of the victim funds to purchase annuities; instead, Aviss reportedly used the money to support his lavish lifestyle, which included luxury cars, U2 concert tickets, expensive watches, and trips to Monaco.


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Aviss also arranged for the victims to receive statements showing the value of the annuities were increasing, and some money was paid back to victims to keep the scheme running.

The newest indictment alleges that Aviss also defrauded the United States by failing to file tax returns for 2014, 2015, and 2016 and failed to pay any income taxes for those years. Aviss allegedly evaded paying more than $3 million in income taxes. He also failed to file with the Department of the Treasury Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts for the years 2015 through 2020, relating to accounts he held in Monaco. Aviss allegedly transferred victims’ money to these offshore accounts, one of which was established with information from an identity theft victim.

If convicted of the charges in the superseding indictment, Aviss would face decades in federal prison. For example, each of the five counts of wire fraud carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Assistant United States Attorney Monica E. Tait of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting this case.


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