State News

Former N.C. banker's luxury goods auctioned

Posted November 18, 2009 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2009 12:11 p.m. EST

— Jewels, art, cars and more than 150 bottles of fine wine were auctioned off in Raleigh on Wednesday to help recoup nearly $70 million in losses for investors duped in an alleged Ponzi scheme.

Iron Horse Auction Company, of Rockingham, and Leland Little Auction & Estate Sales Ltd., of Hillsborough, conducted the auction under a federal court order to sell the assets of William Wise, 58, who operated the Caribbean-based Millennium Bank from an office in Raleigh.

Little said the sale raised about $750,000.

The auction started started in the early afternoon at the North Raleigh Hilton. In-person and online bids were accepted.

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

A designer make-up case sold for $1,200 and a pair of boots went for $650.

"I'm hoping to get something for less than my husband would let me pay," said bidder Jeanne Christiansen.

A seven-carat diamond ring was sold for $172,500; a convertible sold for $107,000. About 130 bottles of high-priced wine are also part of the sale.

"I spent $500 on three pair of designer shoes," said Jim Hoffman, who got the shoes as a Christmas gift for his daughter.

The auction was an eye-opener for Hoffman.

"This is a little insight into how the ultra-rich live," Hoffman said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Wise used the bank as a front for a Ponzi scheme in which he stole nearly $70 million from 375 investors since July 2004.

No charges have been filed in the case, but after the SEC sued Wise and others in March, the courts froze all of Wise's assets.

Wise's whereabouts are unknown.