Former Raleigh banker indicted in $129M Ponzi scheme
Posted March 1, 2012 10:40 a.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2012 11:18 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — A former Raleigh banker who has been missing for three years was indicted last week on charges that he ran a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of more than $75 million.
William Wise, 62, was charged with 12 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count each of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday in California.
Wise operated Millennium Bank from a west Raleigh office. He billed it as a unit of a Swiss bank based on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, but federal authorities allege it was a front for a Ponzi scheme. The indictment charges that Millennium promised investors a 16 percent return on certificates of deposit, but Wise and a California woman used investors' money to repay earlier investors and fund lavish lifestyles for themselves.
A receiver appointed by the court in 2009 to review Millennium's books found that Wise gave his wife a $12,000 weekly allowance and spent $6,000 to $10,000 a month for each of his girlfriends, $1 million on wine, $800,000 to build an hangar in Atlanta for a corporate jet, $450,000 for three boats and an undetermined sum for a 2008 New Year's Eve party for 50 people on St. Vincent.
Wise's assets were seized and auctioned off to help repay investors. He was ordered to pay more than $75 million to investors after failing to respond to a civil suit over the alleged scheme.
The indictment alleges that Millennium sold close to $130 million in the fraudulent certificates of deposit between January 2004 and March 2009, and that investors lost more than $75 million.
Jacqueline Hoegel, who ran Millennium's office in Napa, Calif., was indicted on the same conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud charges as Wise, along with four counts of filing false tax returns and one count each of obstruction and making false statements.
Wise's whereabouts are not known. Private detectives have searched for him in Florida and Canada, according to court documents. His wife and son returned to their native Canada after the government forced the sale of their luxury home in west Raleigh to recover cash.