Seattle – A former Bellevue, Washington, resident who relocated to Miami, was convicted today in U.S. District Court in Seattle of 26 counts related to his multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. The jury deliberated about 11 hours before returning the verdicts following a nine-day trial. Volodimyr Pigida, 48, and his wife Marina Bondarenko, 39, operated a ‘work-at-home’ email scheme that ultimately crashed – but not before the two raided the company’s accounts to purchase homes, expensive cars, and a yacht. The two set up a series of trusts to try to hide the diverted assets from the bankruptcy trustee after the company declared bankruptcy.
According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, the company Pigida and his spouse formed, Trend Sound Promoter AMG Corp., was supposed to conduct advertising and music promotion over the internet. The couple sold ad-promoting packages whereby those who bought a package were to be paid for email marketing. The couple made claims to those purchasing the packages that they could make big money for sending emails on Trend Sound’s behalf. In reality, the only significant money being generated was from those purchasing the packages, and it was used to pay earlier purchasers as in a typical Ponzi scheme. Over time the company brought in over $22 million, and total losses to those purchasing the packages was over $11 million. As purchasers got wise and the money started to run out, Pigida and Bondarenko accelerated their looting of the company, eventually transferring $3.3 million out of the company for their personal benefit.
Between May 2013 and March 2014, the pair used more than $3 million in company funds to purchase four properties, a yacht, and numerous cars. When the company filed for bankruptcy protection, Pigida never revealed to the bankruptcy court that they had looted the company coffers and transferred assets purchased with that money to ten trusts they had established. In all, the pair attempted to conceal $3,334,750 in assets from the bankruptcy court and creditors.
Pigida and Bondarenko were indicted for conspiracy and mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud in November 2018. In September 2019, Bondarenko pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud and was sentenced to 38 months in prison.
In closing argument, on November 29, 2022, Assistant United States Attorney Justin Arnold said the company, “was as far away from solvent [as] a company can be… This wasn’t mismanagement, this was lies.” Arnold said Pigida lied about investors from Hollywood and investors from Florida. “You don’t get to lie to people [to] build your dream, and you don’t get to take their money,” AUSA Arnold said.
Pigida is scheduled for sentencing on March 24, 2023.
Conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison. Wire fraud and mail fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison for each count and a maximum fine of $250,00o or twice the losses to any victims of the offense. The various counts related to bankruptcy fraud are punishable by up to five years in prison for each count and a fine of up to $250,000. The actual sentence will be imposed by Judge Ricardo S. Martinez after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Arnold and Philip Kopczynski.