Local News

Allegations of fraud by Raleigh banker grow

Posted December 4, 2009 4:54 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2009 6:01 p.m. EST

— The scope of an alleged investment fraud scheme involving a Raleigh banker has grown, according to a federal court document filed Friday.

William Wise, 58, operated Millennium Bank, which he billed as a St. Vincent-based unit of a Swiss bank. The SEC sued Wise and others in March, alleging that the bank was a front for a Ponzi scheme that had stolen more than $68 million from 375 investors, including at least 12 in North Carolina, by selling certificates of deposit that promised large returns.

In a report filed Friday by court-appointed receiver Richard Roper, 819 investors have claimed Millennium Bank owes them more than $119 million.

"Despite diligent work to determine what investments may have been made, (I have) no information which suggests that any actual investments were made by the defendants in the course of Millennium business," Roper wrote in his 34-page report.

Wise and others used customers' investments to finance a lavish lifestyle, according to Roper. Some of the expenses he uncovered include a $12,000 weekly allowance for Wise's wife, $6,000 to $10,000 a month for each of Wise's 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.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but Wise's assets were seized and auctioned off to help repay investors. More than $2.3 million has been recovered so far.

Wise's whereabouts are not known and 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.

Roper wrote in the report that he plans to pursue the assets of others involved in the scheme, but he said the confidentiality provisions of St. Vincent banking laws make it difficult to uncover all details about Millennium's operations.