Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ROGER RALSTON, the CEO of DirectView Holdings, Inc. (“DirectView”), a Florida-based video surveillance and security company, pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for defrauding elderly victims in connection with the fraudulent sale of stock and fake carbon credits as part of an international telemarketing scheme that caused nearly $16 million in losses. RALSTON pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff. Co-defendants Christopher Wright and Steven Hooper previously pled guilty and were sentenced to 52 months in prison and 42 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the fraud.
According to the allegations in the Indictment, court filings, and statements made in Court:
From in or about 2009 up to and including in or about 2015, RALSTON and other co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud victims in the United Kingdom of nearly $16 million through the sale of false, fraudulent, and materially misleading investments, and to launder the proceeds of the fraud through bank accounts in the United States and foreign countries. RALSTON and his co-conspirators used the services of telemarketing call centers to identify and cold-call potential victims, who were primarily elderly or retired individuals residing in the United Kingdom. Over a series of telephone calls, the telemarketers persuaded victims to invest money under various false and misleading pretenses, including the promise of short-term, high-yield, no-risk returns, when in fact the investments were high-risk, illiquid, and in some instances, entirely fictitious. Many victims were persuaded to make additional investments under the false pretense that they would not be permitted to sell their holdings until they purchased more. In reliance on the false representations and promises, the victims wired funds to various bank accounts in the United States, including in the Southern District of New York, in the names of corporate entities controlled by RALSTON. RALSTON then mailed and emailed documents related to the fraudulent investments, including purchase contracts and investment certificates, to the victims. Victims who tried to sell their investments found they were unable to do so. The victims never received a refund on their principal or any return on their investments.
In order to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds of the fraudulent scheme, RALSTON regularly transferred a substantial portion of the fraud proceeds from bank accounts in the United States, including in the Southern District of New York, to overseas bank accounts, including accounts in Cyprus, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, in the names of various shell companies controlled by RALSTON’s co-conspirators.
The nature of the particular fraudulent investment vehicles being marketed to the victims changed over time. From in or about 2009 until in or about 2011, RALSTON and his co-conspirators sold DirectView stock to the victims based on telemarketers’ false representations and promises that the shares were a no-risk, short-term investment in a debt-free company, and that the shares were likely to increase over 100 percent in value in a short period of time. In contrast to what RALSTON represented to victims, DirectView’s annual report filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for the year ending December 31, 2010, contained dire warnings about the poor fiscal health of DirectView and the risk attendant in purchasing stock, including that the company “may be forced to cease operations” due to losses and cash flow problems, and purchasers “may find it extremely difficult or impossible to resell our shares.”
From in or about 2011 until in or about 2015, RALSTON and his co-conspirators engaged in the sale of fraudulent “carbon credits.” The boiler room callers appealed to victims by claiming that the investments would be environmentally friendly and help address the climate crisis. “Carbon credits,” which are issued as part of governmental and voluntary regulatory regimes, are permits representing the right to emit a certain number of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “Carbon offsets,” which are tied to particular carbon-dioxide emissions reducing projects, represent a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and can be purchased by individuals and companies to “offset” their or third parties’ “carbon-footprints.” The victims were falsely promised that the carbon-related investments they purchased could be easily sold, carried no risk, and would yield a significant, short-term return. In fact, the carbon credits and offsets that were sold to the victims were fake, and did not represent any actual carbon credits or offsets. Ralston caused fraudulent carbon certificates to be created and sent to the victims.
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RALSTON, 53, of Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. As part of his guilty plea, RALSTON also agreed to forfeit $15,713,621.20 and to pay restitution in the same amount to victims of the scheme. RALSTON is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Rakoff on December 13, 2022, at 4 p.m.
The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as RALSTON’s sentence will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of IRS Criminal Investigation in this case.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises and Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Units. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica Feinstein, Olga I. Zverovich, and David Felton are in charge of the prosecution.