Schuette Announces Conviction of Bay City Woman for Scamming Seniors Out of Millions

Contact: Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

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:

  • One count of Criminal Enterprises - Conducting, a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine; and,
  • One count of Embezzlement From A Vulnerable Adult - $50,000 Or More But Less Than $100,000, a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine or three times the value, the defendant must admit the amount, or it must be greater; and,
  • Seven counts of False Pretenses - $1,000 Or More But Less Than $20,000, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

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.

Consumer Tips For Safe Investing

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: 

  • Check out your broker or adviser. Confirm that your broker and financial adviser is registered and in good standing. Contact the Bureau of Commercial Services with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, at 517-241-6345, to check out your broker or adviser.
  • Beware of strangers touting strange deals. Trusting strangers is a mistake anyone can make when it comes to their personal finances.  Almost anyone can sound nice or honest on the telephone.  Say "no" to any investment professional who presses you to make an immediate decision, giving you no opportunity to check out the salesperson, firm and the investment opportunity itself.  Beware of anyone who suggests investing your money into something you don't understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands.
  • Take your time - don't be rushed into investment decisions. Salespersons who use high-pressure tactics to force an investor into an immediate decision are almost always pitching frauds. They don't want you to think too carefully or find out too much because you may figure out that it's a scam.
  • Keep tabs on your investments. Be wary when a financial planner says "leave everything to me," or "the plan is too complicated to tell you."  Everything should be clear and explainable to you.
  • Monitor the activity on your account. Insist on receiving regular statements.
  • Ask Questions. Never be embarrassed or apologetic about asking questions for trading activity that looks excessive or unauthorized.  It's your money, not your broker's.
  • Keep Diligent Records. Keep all of your records relating to your investments, including notes of conversations you have with brokers, salespeople, and financial advisers.

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.

 

                                                     Mug shot of Dickens

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