Local News

Raleigh investment adviser accused of Ponzi scheme says former clients, employees lied

Posted June 5, 2019 9:29 a.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2019 6:22 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh investment adviser facing charges that he bilked people out of more than $15 million in an elaborate Ponzi scheme says he never intended to cheat anyone.

Federal authorities allege that Stephen Condon Peters, who owns VisionQuest Wealth Management, promised investors returns of 8 to 9 percent a year on low-risk investments. Some turned over their retirement accounts to him, but prosecutors say he diverted $6 million to his own personal use and used other money to pay off earlier investors.

Testifying in his own defense Tuesday and Wednesday, Peters disputed the allegations, saying he had made some bad investments but fully intended to make good on his client obligations.

Over the past three weeks, former VisionQuest employees have testified that they lied to clients and forged documents under Peters' direction. One former worker, Matthew Gomoll, said he even agreed to secretly record conversations with Peters because he knew Peters was doing wrong and didn't want to be part of it.

Employees also described how Peters set up a strategy to deceive federal investigators by forging and backdating disclosure forms for investors.

Under cross examination, Peters claimed he made full disclosure of losses to clients and denied ever instructing employees to falsify documents. When pressed by prosecutors, he said the dozens of investors who said they lost their retirement accounts because of Peters' actions and the employees who testified had lied, while he was telling the truth.

Peters, 46, was indicted in December 2017 on one count each of investment adviser fraud and fraud in the sale of unregistered securities, nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. He also was charged with corruptly endeavoring to influence a federal agency.

Last October, he was also indicted on charges of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to make false statements and documents, making and using false statements and documents and falsifying and concealing documents during a Securities & Exchange Commission examination.

After his initial indictment, federal authorities seized an array of property to help repay victims, including a horse farm near Lake Wheeler, two horses, a cliffside vacation home in Costa Rica known as "The House of the Beloved Princess," a Cadillac Escalade and cash in several bank accounts.

Peters argued purchases like the Costa Rican villa were actually investments to benefit his company and clients.

Closing arguments in the case are expected Thursday.