A 49-year-old Jacksonville man pleaded guilty Friday to four felony counts of operating a sham investment scheme, and many of his victims were retired Duval County school teachers and administrators.
Acting United States Attorney Lee Bentley III said Scott Hall pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Hall, a licensed insurance salesman, was the architect of a sham investment scheme, which he operated for more than 10 years between 1996 and late 2011. Prosecutors say Hall defrauded more than 50 victims and received more than $4 million from investors he victimized. The investors included residents of the greater Jacksonville area; in Columbus, Ga., and in North Carolina. A significant portion of the victim investors were either active or retired Duval County school teachers and administrators, who invested their retirement funds, including their "DROP" (Deferred Retirement Option Program) money, with Hall.
During the scheme, Hall was employed as an independent agent by various financial companies. His victim pool included current clients and client referrals. As part of this scheme, Hall incorporated a shell company, Abaco Securities International Ltd. in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Hall is listed as the director of that company, whose only presence in the Turks and Caicos is a post office box.
As reflected in the plea agreement, Hall’s scheme included his solicitation of clients to invest their retirement savings in an investment product, which he described as ASI, promising interest rates sometimes over 12 percent. Hall directed the victim investors to cause their retirement savings, usually held in IRAs and other investment products, to be transferred from legitimate life insurance companies and investment companies, to his sham business.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Hall would generally deposit the clients' funds into one of several bank accounts that he maintained at SunTrust. Occasionally, as in a Ponzi scheme whereby older investors are paid money from the funds taken from newer investors, Hall would make partial payments to victim investors.
Evidence from a forensic analysis of Hall’s SunTrust accounts established that he failed to invest the victim investors' funds as promised. At times, in an effort to conceal and perpetuate his scheme, Hall created sham account documents falsely reflecting that the investors' funds were invested in a legitimate investment product.
Prosecutors say these sham account statements were provided to the investors to dispel questions regarding their investments. The accounting analysis also revealed that Hall used the investors' funds to pay for personal expenses, purchase commercial property, and to buy luxury automobiles.