Lowell group charged in $1 million fraud action

Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, and Randy Coleman, special agent in charge of the Arkansas Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced Thursday (Jan. 17) that Allen Frederick Wichtendahl and Diana Stewart were indicted on charges of defrauding investors of more than $1 million.

Wichtendahl, 60, and Stewart, 49, allegedly bilked investors by collecting money in exchange for ownership in a purportedly lucrative business venture involving a Nigerian power plant and other projects.

The 16-count indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Fort Smith. The defendants’ “business” was based in Lowell, Ark.

As alleged in documents filed in court, Wichtendahl solicited individuals to invest in an enterprise he called “New Vision Technology.” Investors would send Wichtendahl money payments in exchange for parts of the enterprise.

His scheme began in Florida during the mid-1990s and continued when he moved to Northwest Arkansas in June 2009. Wichtendahl met Stewart in Northwest Arkansas, and in July 2009, Stewart began helping Wichtendahl in his scheme to defraud investors.

Wichtendahl coaxed investors by representing that New Vision Technology sold products in Bulgaria and planned to build a power plant, sell tractors, and establish a cassava processing facility in Nigeria, according the Thursday’s statement from Eldridge’s office. Wichtendahl also established a misleading website and represented that he had made a $12 million capital investment in the company.

From July 2009 to September 2012, Wichtendahl and Stewart collected more than $1 million from investors. The majority of this money was used to pay for Wichtendahl and Stewart’s personal expenses and to maintain the appearance of a legitimate business enterprise. Investors received nothing in return for their money.

As a result of various activities during the commission of their scheme, Wichtendahl was charged with three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, four counts of securities fraud, four counts of selling an unregistered security, and two counts of money laundering.

Stewart was charged with aiding and abetting all 16 counts and will face the same penalties.

They face the following maximum penalties for each count charged:
• Mail fraud—$250,000 fine and 20 years imprisonment;
• Wire fraud—$250,000 fine and 20 years imprisonment;
• Securities fraud—$5 million fine and 20 years imprisonment;
• Failure to register a security—$10,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment; and,
• Money laundering—$250,000 fine (or twice the amount of criminally derived property) and 10 years imprisonment.

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The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; Rogers, Arkansas, Police Department; and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Kyra Jenner represented the United States.

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