Good Luck Runs Out for Alleged Investment Schemers

DA Charges Three in Investment Fraud Scheme.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jennifer Millman
    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

    The good luck ran out for three people in lower Manhattan who allegedly ran a bogus investment company -- even though one of their last names was quite fortunate.

    Sezzie Goodluck, Dean Lewis, and Gedrey Thompson were indicted Thursday by  District Attorney Cyrus Vance for their involvement in the firm.

    "Thompson exploited and preyed upon people in his community who trusted him," said DA Vance.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the New York Regional office of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission performed the investigation that lead to the indictment, which combined 15 counts of securities fraud, three grand larceny counts, and one forgery count.

    Thompson, a Jamaican national, allegedly created GTF Enterprises, Inc., 2003. The company was located at 140 Broadway and was described as a leverage company specializing in options and commodities. 

    All three sought out investors specifically sought out investors who originally were from Jamaica or other Caribbean islands who have made New York their home.

    The company used the tagline "minority owned for minorities," as a selling point for investors. The defendants misled some victims by telling them that they were "select" investors because of their shared heritage.

    It also touted itself as a company that guaranteed investors' principles with minimized market risks. Thompson, Goodluck and Lewis also promised interest rates that were significantly higher than the rates offered by major banks.

    But according to DA Vance, the official was “virtual” and only gave the appearance of a legitimate investment company.

    The group managed to coerce more than 20 investors through misrepresentation and falsified documents, prosecutors said. They allegedly were able to take in over $800,000 from investors.

    "The defendant then disguised this fraud by sending victims phony financial statements, which falsely reassured investors that their money was not only safe, but growing," said the 54-year-old district attorney.

    Vance’s office filed documents that noted the defendants falsely telling investors that they had an extensive background in the financial industry. Some claimed 10 years of experience as a Wall Street trader.  When in reality none of the defendants were licensed to deal in securities.

    Goodluck used her position as a teller at a Chase bank to distribute information on the “investing” firm by stating that GTF offered a more lucrative investment than anything her bank could offer.

    The firm had investors sign contracts and provide phony statements for their investors.  These statements always showed a gain, leading investors to believe that their money was generating returns.

    According to Vance, Thompson allegedly used the money for personal gain, and travel. Documents show that more than $70,000 was withdrawn from ATMs, including withdrawals made in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

    Nearly $400,000 was taken out in teller withdrawals, and $15,000 was spent on hotels, restaurants, and travel expenses.
    Both Lewis and Goodluck allegedly profited from the scheme in the form of either commissions from luring investors or direct cash withdrawals of investors' money from the GTF account.

    The scheme affected a kindergarten teacher, a nurse, a court officer, a home health care attendant, and several retirees. The investor group also included military personnel who invested money earned from their service while stationed in Iraq. 

    Dean Lewis pleaded not guilty and has been released on his on recognizance. He will return to court at the end of June. Thompson and Goodluck are still being sought and are considered fugitives.

    If convicted the group combined can face over 25 years of jail time.