LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two San Fernando men, both in their 70s, were charged Tuesday with running a 15-year-long $100 million Ponzi scam.
Joel Barry Gillis, 74, and Edward Wishner, 76, both of Woodland Hills, were charged in a federal information with mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and aiding and abetting. Prosecutors say the Ponzi scam cost nearly 2,000 investors "well over $100 million."
The men are accused of running Calabasas-based Nationwide Automated Systems, Inc., which claimed to own and operate ATMs in hotels, casinos and convenience stories. They claimed the company operated more than 30,000 ATMs and made more than $1 billion in transactions every month, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
They promised annual returns of 20 percent on each ATM, which they "sold" to investors for $12,000 to $19,800, according to the indictment.
Their company actually owned no more than 250 ATMs, and the payments they made were Ponzi payments, prosecutors said.
And they had a "non-interference" clause in their lease agreements which prevented the investors from visiting the ATM machines, according to the information.
The Ponzi collapsed in August, but Gillis and Wishner took another $4 million from investors by November, the U.S. attorney said.
If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison on each of the four charges.