Local News

Feds label Raleigh investment firm a 'Ponzi scheme'

Posted September 22

— A federal judge on Friday froze the assets of a Raleigh businessman suspected of defrauding investors.

Agents with the FBI and the U.S. Department of the Treasury searched the downtown Raleigh offices of VisionQuest Wealth Management and the home of owner Stephen Peters on July 12 as part of an ongoing investigation.

Although no charges have been filed, prosecutors have seized Peters' assets to help pay potential victims.

Many of the documents related to the VisionQuest investigation remain sealed under court order, but prosecutors alleged during a Friday court hearing that Peters took millions of dollars from more than 70 investors, promising them safe fixed-income returns.

"This strikes of a Ponzi scheme," Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gilmore said. "They were not told these investments were high risk. They were not told Mr. Peters was the primary beneficiary."

Investigators allege $3.4 million was embezzled from VisionQuest to buy a horse farm near Lake Wheeler, a cliffside vacation home in Costa Rica now on the market for $1.8 million and a Cadillac Escalade. They said VisionQuest also used investor money to make dividend payments and buy more financial management firms to launder ill-gotten gains.

Peters' attorney, Wes Camden, called the case "a complex legal and factual situation."

"As you could see from our presentation today, we obviously disagree with the government's view of the situation," Camden said in an email to WRAL News. "We look forward to learning more about the government's investigation and anticipate we will have additional responses as things progress."

U.S. District Judge James Dever froze VisionQuest-related assets for at least three months.

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