Fresno Man Charged in $4+ Million Ponzi and COVID-19 Benefits Fraud Schemes

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

FRESNO, Calif. — Royce Newcomb, 60, of Fresno, charged in connection with schemes estimated to have defrauded investors and the government out of more than $4.2 million was arrested today in Fresno, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

The indictment, unsealed following Newcomb’s arrest, charges him with five counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for running Ponzi, COVID-19 benefits, and other fraud schemes through his company, Strategic Innovations LLC.

According to court records, beginning in 2017, Newcomb owned and operated Strategic Innovations that purported to make smart home and business products meant to stop package theft, prevent weather damage to packages, and make it easier for delivery services and emergency responders to find homes and businesses. He created prototypes for his products, applied for and was issued patents and trademarks, and received local and national media attention that he used to secure millions of dollars from investors.

Newcomb told his investors that he had been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation and that he would use their money to further develop and bring his products to market. He also promised them significant returns in as little as three months. But none of these representations were true. Instead, Newcomb used the investors’ money to pay for his personal expenses such as gambling, luxury vehicles, and a mansion, to pay for refunds to other investors, and to pay for new, unrelated projects without the investors’ authorization.

In the midst of Newcomb’s Ponzi scheme, he also received a fraudulent COVID-19 loan for over $70,000 from the Small Business Administration and fraudulent loans for over $190,000 from private lenders. He lied about his company having hundreds of thousands and even millions in revenues to get these loans.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Barton and Jeffrey Spivak are prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Newcomb faces maximum statutory penalties of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the wire fraud counts, and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the money laundering count. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This effort is part of a California COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force operation, one of three interagency COVID-19 fraud strike force teams established by the U.S. Department of Justice. The California Strike Force combines law enforcement and prosecutorial resources in the Eastern and Central Districts of California and focuses on large-scale, multistate pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors. The strike forces use prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.