Midlothian man sentenced to 14 years in prison for multimillion-dollar fraud scheme

Crime

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Midlothian man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in an investment scheme that stole about $5,7 million for victim investors, according to the Department of Justice.

James Leonard Smith, 65, of Midlothian, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering on Oct. 30, 2020, according to court documents.

Evidence presented at the trial said Smith participated in a worldwide scheme through the Chimera Group Ltd., an investment company based out of the United Kingdom, from about 2014 to 2017. This was an advance-fee scheme where the defendants promised to pay the victims money at a later date in exchange for an upfront payment.

Court records say the people acting as promoters would tell victims that their payments would be protected by letters of credit and other documents purported to be from a large financial institution. These documents were fabricated, sometimes with the help of Smith.

Smith and his co-conspirators also used escrow attorneys, who were also a part of the scheme, to make victims think their money would be safe until the promise had been kept.

However, the scheme stole at least $5.7 million from victims.

Several other co-conspirators were convicted in this scheme:

  • Stuart Jay Anderson, 54, of Aliso Viejo, California, an escrow attorney involved in the scheme, was sentenced to four years in prison on Dec. 3, 2020.
  • James Michael Johnson, 70, of Richmond, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison on March 5, 2021.
  • Brian Michael Bridge, 48, of London, England, a fugitive, was also charged in the superseding indictment.

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