Cars, wine are up for bid in Ponzi scheme auction

Posted October 28, 2009 1:55 p.m. EDT
Updated October 28, 2009 6:28 p.m. EDT

— Cars, wine, art and jewels will go on the auction block in an attempt to recover assets for investors who lost money in an alleged Ponzi scheme.

William Wise, 58, operated Millennium Bank, which he billed as a St. Vincent-based unit of a Swiss bank, from an office on Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh.

The Securities Exchange Commission sued Wise and others in March, alleging that the bank was a front for a Ponzi scheme that has stolen more than $68 million from 375 investors, including at least 12 in North Carolina.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but courts have frozen Wise's assets so they can be auctioned off to repay investors.

Handbags from Chanel and Louis Vuitton are among the designer items up for auction. Many of the items have barely been used, certified estate specialist Nancy Blount said Wednesday.

Blount said the highlight among the jewelry will be a seven-carat diamond ring.

About 130 bottles of high-priced wine are also part of the sale. Bottles range in value from $50 to up to $1,000.

Iron Horse Auction Company, Inc. of Rockingham, and Leland Little Auction & Estate Sales, Ltd. of Hillsborough, will conduct the auction Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. at the North Raleigh Hilton. Bidders can attend in person or bid in real time via the Internet.

"You'll see that the Wise family liked the best of the best. They had designer and name-brands at every level," Leland Little said.

Little expects the auction to take hours, but said the 500 items are worth the wait.

"We are selling by court order and we're instructed to sell to the highest bidder and that's why a lot of folks will be interested," Little said. "We'll sell for the values they bring that day."