Local News

Former Raleigh banker may have to give up $75M

Posted February 28, 2011 10:36 a.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2011 11:08 a.m. EST

— A federal judge is expected to order a former Raleigh banker accused of overseeing a massive investment fraud scheme to surrender more than $75 million.

William Wise never responded to a lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of investors bilked in an alleged Ponzi scheme, and the agency has asked that a default judgment be entered against him. The losses, interest and fees in the judgment would top $75.5 million.

Wise, 59, operated Millennium Bank from a west Raleigh office. He billed it as a St. Vincent-based unit of a Swiss bank, but the SEC alleged that it was a front for a Ponzi scheme that defrauded hundreds of investors, including at least 12 in North Carolina, by selling certificates of deposit that promised large returns.

Wise and others used customers' investments to finance a lavish lifestyle, according to the man appointed by a federal court to review Millennium Bank's books. 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 ever 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.