ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Georgia insurance agents said they busted a $120 million Ponzi scheme which preyed on California farm workers. Three people were arrested Thursday during the bust.
Agents surprised Wesley Bernard Owens, 47, of Suwanee, and Beau Eric Wilson, 34, of Gainesville, before they got up Thursday morning in a pre-dawn raid at their individual upscale homes.
Owens is the CEO of three Gwinnett County businesses including Bison Data Systems. A search warrant was issued in May of 2017 at all three businesses in conjunction with the California Department of Insurance.
State officials worked on the case for two long years. They explained to FOX 5’s Aungelique Proctor how the fraud worked.
"As claims would come in, even though the insurance certificates were fraudulent, Owen's would pay the money himself. Sooner or later, he got more claims than he could pay and the whole Ponzi scheme collapsed, Director of Criminal Investigations Billy Sullivan remarked.
Sullivan said the scheme didn't stop with the thousands of farm workers who were victimized, but Georgia and California taxpayers took a hit too.
"Everything they didn't or couldn't pay fell back on Georgia and California Taxpayers and that was approximately $60 million. Right now, we feel comfortable estimating the total loss at $120 million. We believe Owens fraudulently obtained $60 million himself," Sullivan said.
Agents raided the homes of Owens and Wilson early Thursday morning. They said two female suspects are also involved, one in Georgia and Jennifer Lynn Ceville James, of Tampa, Florida.
The elaborate scheme involved six states from California to South Carolina and demanded hundreds of hours in the legwork that took more than two years.
"These types of crimes, it's a long tedious process to go through all the documents, to retrieve the information off of the computers. Sometimes it takes this long,” Sullivan commented.
In all, the four suspects face 88 counts of insurance fraud, identity fraud, felony theft, RICO and many other charges.
Investigators said they tried to serve a warrant at a home Ronda Nicole Taylor, 48, of Stone Mountain, but she was not home Thursday morning. She is wanted for 21 outstanding warrants connected to the scheme.