A financial advisor in Chicago is facing wire fraud charges after allegedly deceiving his clients and taking nearly $1.5 million through fraudulent investments in fake movie productions.
John A. Woods, a 68-year-old resident of Chicago, has been apprehended on allegations of wire fraud. It is believed that he masterminded an investment scheme that specifically preyed on his elderly clients.
As per the criminal complaint, Woods managed to convince a minimum of 10 clients to invest in non-existent movie productions from 2011 to 2018, diverting the funds for his own personal gain. Some of the victims were above the age of 60.
“The defendant shamelessly took advantage of his clients’ trust, brazenly swindling their well-deserved savings to fund his own extravagant lifestyle,” stated U.S. Attorney John Lausch when announcing the charges.
Promised Lucrative Returns from Fake Movies
According to prosecutors, Woods is accused of leveraging his role as a financial planner to persuade his clients to invest in movies, making enticing promises of high returns.
According to the complaint, he stated that the funds would be utilized to cover production expenses for significant motion pictures associated with renowned studios such as Disney, Pixar, and Marvel.
Actually, none of the movies were real. However, Woods deceitfully presented fabricated production schedules, cast lists, and other materials to dupe victims into believing their investments were genuine.
In addition, he created falsified documents to deceive clients into believing that their investments were yielding higher returns, thus encouraging them to invest more money.
According to prosecutors, Woods managed to deceive clients into believing they were investing in movies, ultimately resulting in a staggering sum of approximately $1.498 million being swindled from them.
Supposedly, he utilized the majority of the funds to cover personal expenses such as extravagant cars, fine jewelry, trips, spa visits, chauffeur services, and adult entertainment.
As per the complaint, when clients started asking for refunds on their movie investments, Woods made excuses about production delays and sent counterfeit checks that were supposed to represent earnings.
The scheme fell apart when multiple individuals came forward, stating that they had not received the money they were owed. They started questioning Woods about when they would receive the promised payments.
Targeted Retirees and Seniors
Officials stated that Woods took advantage of elderly investors in carrying out his fraudulent scheme that lasted for ten years.
Many of the victims were retirees and senior citizens who had placed their trust in Woods’ advice, genuinely believing that their hard-earned money was being used to support the production of significant films.
“He exploited the trust of clients who relied on him for their financial futures,” stated Emmerson Buie, the head of the FBI’s Chicago office.
According to prosecutors, Woods allegedly urged seniors to sell off their retirement accounts for investment purposes, resulting in substantial financial losses for them.
The criminal complaint outlines a series of unethical actions committed by Woods, such as excessively trading customer accounts for personal gain, conducting unauthorized trades, and deliberately withholding information from client statements.
He faced consequences from various employers and had his insurance license revoked due to misconduct. However, he continued to establish his own company in order to carry out more deceitful activities.
Faces Serious Jail Time if Convicted
Wire fraud charges can result in a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Prosecutors are determined to ensure that victims receive full restitution.
Woods was granted release on a $50,000 bond following his arrest. As part of the legal proceedings, he will need to give up his passport and will be restricted to traveling within northern Illinois until the trial is over.
According to officials, the charges are a prime example of a deceitful investment scheme that specifically targeted older residents of Chicago, making it one of the most severe cases in recent memory.
It is important to note that this case serves as a reminder to thoroughly investigate any investment opportunities and remain vigilant against schemes that make promises of guaranteed high returns.
According to a defrauded client who spoke to the Chicago Tribune, they expressed feelings of gullibility and foolishness. I can’t believe I fell for his stories for such a long time.
Prosecutors commended the courageous individuals who stepped forward and urged anyone else who may have been affected to reach out to investigators.