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$15 Million Ponzi Scheme Alleged in Winnetka

CHICAGO (CN) - Two principals in a collapsed firm in wealthy Winnetka were arrested Tuesday and accused of running a $15 million Ponzi scheme that financed a lavish lifestyle of fancy restaurants, private jets and jewelry. Charles Martin, 43, and John Walsh, 60, allegedly misappropriated customer funds from their company, One World Capital Group.

According to the complaint unsealed Wednesday, the shady dealings paid for a variety of extravagances - one former employee claimed that Martin "spent money like a billionaire." The company alleged specialized in foreign currency trades. The defendants are accused of covering their tracks with false and misleading reports to customers and regulatory bodies.

In a 60-page affidavit, an FBI agent claims the men spent more than $1 million at a strip club and restaurants and millions on swanky hotels, restaurants, flights on private jets and a "fleet of luxury vehicles."

Several relatives of Walsh and Martin allegedly received corporate credit cards, though they were not employed by the firm.

One World funds allegedly were used to finance a movie, "Order of Redemption," an unreleased action film starring the rapper Busta Rhymes and Tom Berenger.

When it became apparent that One World's finances were in shambles, Walsh tried to assuage one employee's fears by assuring her that "when the movie sells, we'll have the money," according to the affidavit.

On paper, Walsh was the president and primary manager, but the complaint alleges that Martin was principally responsible for day-to-day operations, despite being prohibited by National Futures Association guidelines from acting as a principal due to a prior felony drug conviction and a misdemeanor theft conviction.

If convicted, both men face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fines.

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