Securities and Exchange Commission
Litigation Release No. 17999 / February 26, 2003
Court Enters $130 Million Judgment Against Vavasseur Corp. for International Ponzi Scheme
SEC v. Terry L. Dowdell, et al., Civil Action No. 3:01CV00116 (W.D. Va.) (Honorable James H. Michael, Jr.)
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that on Friday, February 21, 2003, the Honorable Judge James H. Michael, Senior U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Virginia, Charlottesville Division, entered a default judgment in the amount of approximately $130 million against Vavasseur Corporation (Vavasseur), the principal entity defendant in a massive international Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Terry Dowdell. Dowdell has previously pled guilty to criminal charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and money laundering stemming from this scheme, and is awaiting sentencing.
The judgment requires Vavasseur to pay disgorgement of $121,235,000, plus $8,611,214.42 in prejudgment interest. The court also imposed a $600,000 civil penalty, issued a permanent injunction prohibiting future violations of the federal securities laws and, in a separate order, appointed Roy M. Terry Jr. and the law firm of DurretteBradshaw PLC as Receiver over the corporation's assets. Additionally, the Court ordered Vavasseur to repatriate millions of dollars of investor funds located in bank accounts in Ireland, Belgium, Guernsey and Mexico.
The SEC's enforcement action arises out of a fictitious investment program that Dowdell operated through Vavasseur Corporation, a Bahamian company controlled by Dowdell. According to the 20 Count Information filed in the District Court, investors in this program (the Vavasseur Program) were required to sign an investment contract with Vavasseur, termed a "Discretionary Investment Management Agreement" (Agreement). The agreement falsely represented that investor funds would be maintained in a bank account registered as "Vavasseur Corp. for the benefit of (Client name)," and committed Vavasseur:
"to use its best efforts to achieve anticipated profits. . . in an amount equal to or exceeding Four Percent (4%) of the Client's funds under management for each week in which trading occurs. [Vavasseur] shall use its best efforts basis to cause trading of Client's funds in a minimum of forty weeks during each fifty-two week Agreement term."
This would result in annualized gross return of 160%.
This judgment against Vavasseur comes a little more than one year after the SEC filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia against Dowdell, Vavasseur and others in connection with the same fraudulent investment scheme. On the day that the SEC filed its lawsuit, November 19, 2001, the Court entered a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting Dowdell and his associates from raising any additional funds for the Vavasseur Program, freezing all of Dowdell's assets, and requiring the repatriation of all Vavasseur assets located outside of the United States. In connection with this order, more than $23 million of funds directly traced to Vavasseur investors has been frozen in various U.S. banks, including the AmSouth Bank, the Bank of America and The Chase Manhattan Bank.
On June 4, 2002, Dowdell admitted to the fraud in the SEC's action in a Consent and Stipulation, and the Court entered an order the same day permanently enjoining Dowdell from future violations of the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The judgment provides that the amount of disgorgement and civil penalties that Dowdell will have to pay will be determined later. On July 12, 2002, the Court appointed Roy M. Terry, Esq. and the law firm of DurretteBradshaw, PLC as Receiver over Dowdell's assets and to develop a plan of distribution for the return of funds to injured investors.
In his Consent and Stipulation, Dowdell admitted that other foreign nationals, including Shinder Gangar and Alan White, citizens and residents of the United Kingdom, have continued to raise investor funds in connection with the Vavasseur program even after November 19, 2001, and further admitted that various foreign banks have been used in furtherance of the fraud, including Overseas Development Bank & Trust and Investors Bank & Trust in Dominica, the Bank of Ireland in Ireland, Banamex Bank in Mexico, Butterfield Bank in the Commonwealth of Guernsey, Investec Bank in Israel, Fortis Bank in Belgium and Cathay Bank in Belize.
The SEC and Department of Justice have been coordinating their enforcement efforts with law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom and other countries, including the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Leicestershire Constabulary, the U.K. Financial Services Authority (FSA), the Antwerp Police, and Ireland's Criminal Asset Bureau. In related enforcement actions in October 2002, the SFO and the Leicestershire Constabulary arrested Gangar, White and two others suspected of involvement of the Vavasseur Program and other fraudulent investment programs, and the FSA filed civil charges and obtained a worldwide asset freeze against White, Gangar and their accounting firms "Dobb White & Co" and "Morris White & Co.," accusing them of running an unlawful investment scheme.
Additional information concerning the SEC's lawsuit against Dowdell can be found in Litigation Release No. 17242, November 19, 2001; Release No. 17454, April 2, 2002; [Release No. 17553], June 10, 2002; [Release No. 17880], October 10, 2002; [Release No. 17881], October 10, 2002; and [Release No. 17905], December 19, 2002.
Additional information on how prime bank and other banking-related investment schemes work can be found at the SEC's Prime Bank Fraud Information Center (http://www.sec.gov/divisions/enforce/primebank.shtml) in the enforcement section of the SEC's Web site, at the Receiver's website, located at http://www.dowdell-receivership.com