A Florida man was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in prison for wire fraud in connection with his million-dollar scheme to pose as a successful commodities trader.
Matthew White, 29, from Cocoa Beach, accepted $1.29 million in investments from family, friends, and others, promising big gains. In truth, little was invested, and the profits were non-existent.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik acknowledged that White was working to pay back the money he stole. However, the judge said a prison sentence is important to show there is a price to pay for “targeting vulnerable people and stealing their money.”
According to records filed in the case, between 2011 and 2018, White solicited funds from investors in Florida and Washington State. White represented that he would use the money to successfully trade in futures contracts first under his own name, and later under the name of his company, M.W. Global Futures LLC, of which he was the sole member.
White claimed to have expertise as a commodities trader, with special training. He also claimed to be a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. All of these claims were false.
White provided promotional materials that claimed his trading would provide a high return on investment. In October 2017, he sent one elderly investor a brochure claiming a return on investment in excess of 16% annually.
Once he got their funds, White sent investors statements purporting to show substantial trading activity and profits. The statements also showed White’s commissions, which were allegedly tied to the level of profits. White sent some of these fictitious statements via email, constituting wire fraud. Very little of the money was actually traded in investment accounts, and the investments that were traded resulted in losses.
Of the $1.29 million, White repaid approximately $425,000 as redemptions and purported profits during the scheme. In November 2018, White was contacted by investigators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He then repaid an additional $602,000 to two victims.
White owes the remaining $281,970 in restitution to his victims. According to White’s defense counsel, he was paying $80,000 towards that restitution on Friday, before his prison term.
Speaking in court Friday, Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs said White ran his fraud with repetition and persistence. “It was not a one-time lapse in judgment, for years he sent fake account statements and got new infusions of cash…. He knew the victims were elderly and vulnerable. They had their own hopes and plans for this money.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Division of Enforcement of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.