U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Arpert has ordered that the case against former Princeton resident Ford Graham be continued until the end of November in order to give his defense lawyer time to prepare for a trial and possibly reach a plea deal. The order was filed on Sept. 29.
In his ruling postponing the court proceedings, Arpert said the federal government and Graham anticipate entering into plea negotiations that would render grand jury proceedings and a trial unnecessary. The continuance would conserve judicial resources, he said.
In March, Graham was charged by the federal government 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.
According to the court filing, three of the victims of Graham’s alleged Ponzi schemes were Princeton area residents and two of them invested a “substantial amount” of money with him. Other alleged victims included a former chief financial officer for his company, a resident of Tempe, Arizona, a resident of Encinitas, California, an electronic payments processing company based in San Francisco, a municipal public works agency in the Des Moines, Iowa area, and a law firm located on Nantucket in Massachusetts.
According to documents filed in the case, Graham allegedly 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, 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. He 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, he 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.
According to court documents, Graham also 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 allegedly attempted to defraud multiple victims of at least $6 million.