Man found guilty in Liberian investment scamby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — An Eden Prairie man was found guilty today in federal court of defrauding investors, by falsely claiming to be a former government official with ties to a lucrative business venture in Liberia.
John Jefferson, 55, was convicted of wire fraud, money laundering and failure to file tax returns.
Jefferson used an "unwitting person" to funnel more than $8 million from investors to his personal bank accounts, according to the indictment.
He used the money to support a "lavish lifestyle," including luxury cars, overseas vacation trips and several townhomes for family members, the indictment said.
Jefferson claimed the investments would fund a project to extract natural resources from the African nation. He told his business associate the project would earn about $2.2 billion, the indictment said.
The business associate believed Jefferson's claims and began soliciting investments from his professional and personal contacts.
"Because of this belief, the unwitting person felt able to promise victims high rates of return on their investment in the Liberian project," the indictment said.
Jefferson received the money through a somewhat complicated scheme, according to the indictment.
First, investors would send money via wire transfers from their bank accounts into the bank account of Jefferson's associate. The associate then gave the money to Jefferson through interstate wire transfers or by hand-delivering cashier's checks, money orders, and cash to Jefferson. Jefferson did not report his income to the IRS from 2004 to 2006.
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.