Arthur Lamar Adams pled guilty to charges related a recently uncovered Ponzi scheme in a Jackson Federal Court yesterday afternoon.
Adams was charged with two counts of wire fraud involving a scheme to defraud investors and one count of bank fraud for his role in the scheme that swindled more than 250 people out of more than $100 million across 14 states. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker is among those who have come forward as a victim of Adams’ scheme which spanned from 2011 to 2018.
After yesterday’s hearing at the Thad Cochran Courthouse, Adams walked out of the building without saying a word, but his attorney, John Colette, did speak briefly to the gathered media on behalf of his client. With such a vast number of victims, Colette says that Adams will cooperate with authorities to aid in the recovery of defrauded funds now that the plea has been entered.
“He’s very remorseful to anybody who lost any money, and he’s doing everything in his power now that the government can maximize recovery of various assets that may or not still be out there.”
Adams will be ordered to pay restitution, and that amount will be determined after the investigation has concluded and funds and other assets have been recovered.
The scheme centered around Adams’ company, Madison Timber Properties, as a way to entice investors to give money. Adams claimed that he was in the business of buying timber rights from landowners and then selling the timber rights to lumber mills at a higher price. However, neither Adams nor his company possessed the proper rights or contracts with lumber mills, except in a few instances.
According to U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, Adams guaranteed his investors a 12-13% interest rate on their investment. Adams used false documents and forged signatures to gain legitimacy and convince investors that their investments were secured by sufficient collateral from which they could recover all or part of their investment in the event that Madison Timber Properties defaulted on the loans.
Hurst has called this “one of the largest Ponzi schemes” in Mississippi and said that this will case will serve as a precedent for anyone caught running an illegal scheme in the state.
“Those who prey upon and swindle people out of their hard-earned money, in some cases their life savings and retirements, will be firmly prosecuted by this office and face justice in our courts. This criminal conduct will not be tolerated in our state, and if others were involved, we will continue to dig until all those responsible have been brought to justice,” Hurst said.
Sentencing will take place in August, and Colette says that the sentencing date was pushed back because there is still a “great deal of material” that they need to work on.
According to Hurst’s office, Adams faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.