ATLANTA - A federal civil lawsuit to take assets from an Atlanta-based business alleges the co-founders and executives knew they were running an illegal investment scheme.
The FBI raided the offices of the Sterling Currency Group on Buford Highway last week. The company, also known as the Dinar Banker, sold investors nearly worthless Iraqi money, in the hope that the currency would eventually jump in value.
The complaint of forfeiture filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday alleges Sterling’s co-founders, Ty Rhame and Jim and Laurette Shaw, and Chief Operating Officer Frank Bell collected more than $600 million in investments since 2004, then used the money to fund extravagant lifestyles.
The government lists a $6 million Buckhead estate at the corner of Valley and Tuxedo roads as part of the scheme. Property records show it is owned by the Shaws. The feds also want to seize a Brookhaven mansion valued at about $1.5 million, other local properties, two beach houses in Panama City, Florida, three airplanes and three luxury automobiles.
The court documents detail emails between the co-founders that make it appear they were well aware they were making millions on false promises and profiting from people’s false hopes. One from Jim Shaw to Rhame about his wife reads, “She has lately been very nervous and was crying last night because she knows we are running an illegal operation.”
Atlanta defense attorney Bob Brennan, a former federal prosecutor working financial fraud cases, says lawsuits to take assets often come before an indictment and criminal charges. “There’s an active criminal investigation, but no one’s been charged with a crime yet,” said Brennan.
The FBI wants to hear from investors in Sterling Currency Group. They’ve set up a tip line for potential victims at 877-236-8947 and a website here.