Former Princeton resident Ford Graham has been charged with fraud, identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, and aggravated identity theft for allegedly engaging in multiple schemes to steal millions of dollars from individuals and institutions.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rachel Honig credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark office, Red Bank Resident Agency, as well as special agents of the IRS, inspectors for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and investigators for the New Jersey Bureau of Securities for the investigative work that led to the charges.
Graham, 57, was arrested last week in Nellysford, Virginia, and made his initial federal court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey at a later date.
According to documents filed in the case, from December of 2012 to September of 2013, Graham represented himself as the owner, chief executive, chairman, manager, and principal member of dozens of corporate entities purporting to do business under an umbrella organization, Vulcan Capital Corp. Graham, a 1986 Princeton University alumnus who lived on Prospect Avenue and was active in a local church and a country club, portrayed himself as a highly successful financier who had vast experience sponsoring complex energy and natural resource projects and other investment deals. In connection with one such investment that Graham and a Vulcan entity sponsored, one Princeton victim invested more than $2 million with Graham, relying on Graham’s misrepresentations and omissions regarding the investment. According to court documents, the investigation revealed that Graham misappropriated substantial amounts of the victim’s investment money and used it for his own personal benefit and enrichment – including international vacations, private school tuition for his children, and other personal amenities – instead of the investment purpose. Graham allegedly caused multiple victims to lose more than $2.6 million in the Ponzi scheme.
Graham also allegedly participated in a scheme to defraud merchant processing institutions through fraudulent credit card transactions. From December of 2017 to February of 2018, Graham allegedly used at least one payment processing platform to process fraudulent charges on stolen credit card numbers that he obtained. After the payment processing platform credited Graham’s account with the payments requested, Graham allegedly quickly transferred or caused to be transferred the fraudulently obtained money to other accounts before the victim institutions could act. When requested by the victim payment processing company to provide supporting documentation, Graham allegedly submitted false documentation, including fabricated invoices and credit card authorization forms, fabricated e-mails, forged signatures, altered bank statements, and other false and fraudulent information. This scheme resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of losses and the misappropriation of multiple victims’ personal identification information, according to court documents.
From February of 2017 to June of 2018, Graham allegedly conspired with others to defraud victim institutions and individuals of millions of dollars through a business email compromise scheme. Members of the conspiracy scheme allegedly sent fraudulent e-mail communications to victims who were scheduled to make substantial outgoing wire transfers to third parties. These fraudulent e-mails created the appearance that they had been sent by the intended third-party recipients of the scheduled payments when, in fact, they were sent by members of the conspiracy. The fraudulent emails requested the victims to reroute the scheduled payments to different bank accounts Graham and his conspirators controlled. In one instance, a fraudulent email successfully induced one victim unknowingly to reroute a payment of more than $650,000 to a bank account Graham controlled. Upon receiving the funds, Graham allegedly transferred or caused to be transferred substantial portions of those funds to other accounts that he controlled, and which he used and intended to use for his own personal benefit. Graham and his conspirators attempted to defraud multiple victims of at least $6 million.
The wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross amount of gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater. The securities fraud count is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Each count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a statutory mandatory consecutive sentence of two years, which must run consecutive to any other sentence. The charge of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense or not more than twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved in the transactions.
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