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Richmond man sentenced for role in multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme

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A Richmond man was sentenced today to 97 months in prison for his role in an investment scheme that defrauded investors of $5.7 million.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, James Michael Johnson, 69, participated in a worldwide scheme through Chimera Group Ltd., a purported investment company based out of the United Kingdom.

Johnson was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering on October 30, 2020, after a four-day trial.

“For more than four years, the defendant and his co-conspirators stole over $5 million from victim investors, which included individuals, startup business entities, and a volunteer fire department,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Thanks to the outstanding work of the trial team and our law enforcement partners, the defendant has been held accountable for inflicting significant economic harm on his victims and abusing their trust.”

From July 2014 to March 2019, the fraud operated as an advance-fee scheme in which the defendants acted as promoters who promised to pay the victims a sum of money at a later date, in exchange for an upfront advanced payment.

Among other misrepresentations, Johnson and his co-conspirators told potential victims that their principal payments would be protected based on letters of credit and other documents that purported to be from a large financial institution. However, these letters were fabricated.

The evidence also showed that Johnson and his co-conspirators used escrow attorneys, who were themselves part of the scheme, in order to give the victims the impression that their money would remain secure until the conspirators’ promises had been kept.

Johnson and his co-conspirators stole approximately $5.7 million from their victims. Co-conspirator James Leonard Smith, 64, of Midlothian, Virginia, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, and Stuart Jay Anderson, 54, of Alisa Viejo, California, was sentenced to four years in prison on Dec. 3, 2020.

Brian Michael Bridge, 46, of London, England, a fugitive, was also charged in the superseding indictment.


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