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Five months after the FBI searched his downtown Raleigh office, VisionQuest founder Stephen Peters has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The 29-page indictment comes a day before a restraint on his assets was set to expire. It charges Peters, 44, with one count of investment advisor fraud, one count of fraud in the sale of unregistered securities, nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminal derived property and one count of corruptly endeavoring to influence a federal agency.

Through his attorney, Peters is denying the charges.

“As we all know, there are two sides to every story, and Mr. Peters very much looks forward to telling his side through the vigorous defense of this case,” Wes Camden of Ward and Smith wrote in an email to the TBJ late Wednesday. “He denies the charges against him and looks forward to having his day in Court.”

Peters appears on the charges at 10 a.m. Thursday at a U.S. District Court in Raleigh.

Should he be convicted, Peters could face a lengthy prison sentence. The maximum sentence for wire fraud alone is 20 years in prison per count.

The indictment, for the first time, offers specifics into a purported scheme the feds have repeatedly called a “Ponzi” in court.

From 2009 to 2017, Peters sold at least $15 million worth of promissory notes in VisionQuest Capital LLC, according to the indictment. Those notes were primarily sold to clients at VisionQuest Management LLC, another of his companies – and an alleged conflict of interest.

In exchange for investments, the notes purported to promise investors an 8 percent annual return on principal and, if they reinvested rather than electing to receive monthly interest payments, they were promised a 9 percent rate of return, according to the indictment. But the feds say that, unbeknownst to investors, he didn’t actually invest the note proceeds into revenue-generating businesses.

“In fact, Peters stole large portions of the investor proceeds and carried out a ‘Ponzi’ scheme on investors,” the indictment reads.

The feds allege that, in addition to using principals to pay off obligations to other investors, he directed some of the cash toward his personal interests and holdings, “including a farm and a luxury vacation home in Costa Rica.”  And he is accused of taking “off the top” of some of those notes.

In addition to detailing several of those allegedly fraudulent investments, the indictment accuses Peters of fabricating records and providing false testimony when SEC investors began to look into how he was spending note proceeds.

After being issued subpoenas in April of 2017, Peters allegedly directed an information technology company to delete various emails including the words “capital,” along with the names of certain investors and employees. “Peters further directed the information technology representative to ‘wipe’ the computers that originally held these emails, and to send the computers ‘back to the factory,’” the indictment alleges.

Additionally, Peters is accused of fabricating a $10 million revolving promissory note between VisionQuest Wealth and VisionQuest Capital to explain the cash flow, backdating it to June 2 and lying to the feds about its creation.

Included in the indictment is a forfeiture notice, covering multiple bank accounts and property, such as Peters’ Theys Road home, Hargett Street office, a vacation rental in Costa Rica and properties in Wilkes and Onslow counties. The order also bars Peters from accessing the stable he founded called Whispering Hope Farms and includes three horses, farm equipment, fire arms, jewelry (including wedding bands) and several vehicles, including a 2014 Cadillac Escalade. It also forfeits several paintings, including one by Italian artist Guido Borelli.

The forfeiture also includes gross proceeds of the alleged offenses, estimated at $15.3 million.

Feds indict Raleigh investment manager; $15M scheme alleged was last modified: January 3rd, 2019 by Capital Shield