prison

RICHARDSON, Texas — Two north Texas men were among seven sentenced in a multi-million dollar investment fraud scheme targeting elderly and other vulnerable victims, the Department of Justice announced today.

In today's announcement, the U.S. Justice Department says 51-year-old Michael Allen Duke of Richardson, Texas, and 62-year-old Robert Leslie Stencil of Charlotte, North Carolina were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr., of the Western District of North Carolina, after being found guilty of multiple counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

53-year-old Martin Delaine Lewis of Frisco, Texas, had previously pled guilty in the case and was sentenced. The federal records retrieval system was unavailable at the time of press to determine Lewis' sentencing information.

Duke, following a three-week trial that began earlier this month, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering and sentenced to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,635,485 in restitution.

Stencil was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 13 counts of mail fraud, 13 counts of wire fraud, and four counts of money laundering. He was sentenced to 135 months in prison and ordered to pay $2,745,239 in restitution and to forfeit $868,317.58.

Stencil, Duke, and their co-conspirators sold millions of dollars of worthless stock in a sham company named Nivato Industries Inc. from 2012 through 2016, according to evidence presented at trial — with Stencil playing the role of Nivato's chief executive officer and Duke as the company's top salesperson.

"Together with their co-conspirators, Stencil and Duke portrayed Niyato as a leader in its field, manufacturing electric vehicles and converting gasoline vehicles to run on compressed natural gas," read a statement from the Justice Department. "Stencil, Duke and their co-conspirators told victims that Niyato was run by a team of high-profile executives, and that Niyato had patented technology, state-of-the-art facilities and valuable contracts."

Federal prosecutors say the two and their co-conspirators used high-pressure tactics when pitching Nivato stock to potential victims.

"Among other things, they sold victims on the opportunity to 'get in on the ground floor,' offering them a portion of a supposedly limited supply of pre-IPO stock at $.50 per share and promising them a 10- to 16-fold return when Niyato went public," continued the statement. "From 2012 to 2016, Stencil, Duke and their co-conspirators repeatedly told victims that an IPO was imminent, the evidence showed."

Despite the sales pitch, prosecutors say Nivato had no patents, facilities, products, or plans to commence an IPO.

"Niyato’s true business was the sale of worthless stock," stated the department.

Evidence during trial showed approximately $2.8 million in worthless stock was sold to approximately 140 victims, many who were elderly or vulnerable for other reasons, according to prosecutors.

Stencil would pay the salespersons, like Duke, half or nearly half of the money solicited from each investor on behalf of Nivato. They then would use nearly all the money for their own person benefit.

Stencil, according to evidence presented, used Nivato's bank account as his own personal "piggybank."

Four others also pled guilty and were sentenced: 64-year-old Nicholas Fleming of Northridge, California, 62-year-old Paula Saccomanno of Boca Raton, Florida, 48-year-old Kristian F. Sierpo of Costa Rica, and 65-year-old Dennis Swerdlen of Boca Raton.

62-year-old Daniel Thomas Broyles Sr. of Beverly Hills, California was also charged but remains a fugitive in the case.

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