March 13, 2014
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a Midland County jury has convicted a Bay City woman on nine felony charges for her role in an extensive multi-county Ponzi scheme. Shawn Dicken, 39, of Bay City, defrauded senior citizens out of millions of dollars. The charges were filed following an Attorney General investigation.
"Con artists try new tricks every day to make a quick buck from vulnerable Michigan citizens," said Schuette. "We are cracking down on criminals who target the life savings of Michigan seniors. Be wary and ask questions of anyone promising investments that seem too good to be true."
Beginning in 2011, Dicken was employed as the lead salesperson for The Diversified Group Advisory Firm LLC, an investment company. During her tenure with Diversified, misrepresented the investments she marketed to investors, saying investments offered by Diversified were without risk, completely liquid, featuring a guaranteed rate of return of between 9.5% and 10.44%.
Dicken failed to disclose the risks associated with the actual investment in question - a highly leveraged real estate investment that could result in the loss of all of the investors' money. Many investors, including senior citizens, risked their life savings. Dicken swindled investors out of more than two million dollars and investigation revealed she took an eight percent commission, pocketing approximately $160,000 for herself.
The Attorney General investigation revealed Dicken funneled investors' money into a Ponzi Scheme operated by a Saginaw man, Joel Wilson. Wilson also faces extensive felony criminal charges filed in January 2013, and is currently in custody in Germany, awaiting extradition to back to the United States.
Dicken was convicted of following charges:
Dicken was acquitted on one count of one count of Securities - Fraudulent Sales.
Dicken, who is currently free on bond, will return for sentencing in Midland County Circuit Court before Judge Stephen P. Carras on May 8, 2014.
At sentencing, Schuette will seek approximately $850,000 in restitution for the eight victims associated with these convictions. In addition, Schuette will request $2.15 million in restitution for an addition 49 victims affected by Dicken's crimes.
Citizens who believe they may have been victims of Shawn Dicken, Joel Wilson or The Diversified Group are encouraged to file complaints with the Attorney General's Office.
Schuette encourages Michigan citizens to exercise caution before investing their money with those who promise exorbitant returns.
"Do your homework before handing over your hard-earned money," said Schuette. "Take your time, ask questions, and be sure to confirm your broker is in good standing with the State before signing on the dotted line.
Key tips to avoid falling victim to a Ponzi scheme or investment fraud include:
Consumers can find helpful advice and a list of questions to consider in Attorney General Schuette's Consumer Alert for Ponzi Schemes, available on Schuette's website. Attorney General Schuette also offers specialized consumer advice for Michigan seniors on how to avoid investment fraud through the Senior Brigade website.