March 30, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–A former Princeton resident was arrested today and charged with engaging in multiple fraudulent schemes intended to steal millions of dollars from individual and institutional victims, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Ford Graham, 57, formerly of Princeton, New Jersey, was arrested today in Nellysford, Virginia, and charged by criminal complaint with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of engaging in unlawful money transactions. Graham made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe in Harrisonburg, Virginia, federal court. Graham will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on a date to be determined.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From December 2012 to September 2013, Graham represented himself as the owner, chief executive, chairman, manager, and principal member of dozens of corporate entities purporting to do business under an umbrella organization, Vulcan Capital Corp. (Vulcan). Graham held himself out as a highly successful financier who had vast experience sponsoring complex energy and natural resource projects and other investment deals. In connection with one such investment that Graham and a Vulcan entity sponsored, one victim (Victim-1) invested more than $2 million with Graham, relying on Graham’s misrepresentations and omissions regarding the investment. The investigation revealed that Graham misappropriated substantial amounts of Victim-1’s investment money and used it for his own personal benefit and enrichment – including international vacations, private school tuition for his children, and other personal amenities – instead of the investment purpose that Graham had marketed. Graham caused multiple victims to lose more than $2.6 million.
Graham also participated in a scheme to defraud merchant processing institutions through fraudulent credit card transactions. From December 2017 to February 2018, Graham used at least one payment processing platform to process fraudulent charges on stolen credit card numbers that he obtained. After the payment processing platform credited Graham’s account with the payments requested, Graham quickly transferred or caused to be transferred the fraudulently obtained money to other accounts before the victim institutions could act. When requested by the victim payment processing company to provide supporting documentation, Graham submitted false documentation, including fabricated invoices and credit card authorization forms, fabricated e-mails, forged signatures, altered bank statements, and other false and fraudulent information. This scheme resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of losses and the misappropriation of multiple victims’ personal identification information.
From February 2017 to June 2018, Graham conspired with others to defraud victim institutions and individuals of millions of dollars through a business email compromise scheme. Members of the conspiracy sent fraudulent e-mail communications to victims who were scheduled to make substantial outgoing wire transfers to third parties. These fraudulent e-mails created the appearance that they had been sent by the intended third-party recipients of the scheduled payments when, in fact, they were sent by members of the conspiracy. The fraudulent emails requested the victims to reroute the scheduled payments to different bank accounts, which Graham and his conspirators controlled. In one instance, a fraudulent email successfully induced one victim unknowingly to reroute a payment of more than $650,000 to a bank account that Graham controlled. Upon receiving the funds, Graham transferred or caused to be transferred substantial portions of those funds to other accounts that he controlled, and which he used and intended to use for his own personal benefit. Graham and his conspirators attempted to defraud multiple victims of at least $6 million.
The wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross amount of gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater. The securities fraud count is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Each count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a statutory mandatory consecutive sentence of two years, which must run consecutive to any other sentence. The charge of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense or not more than twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved in the transactions.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, Newark Division, Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr.; special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez; and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins, with the investigation leading to today’s charges. Acting U.S. Attorney Honig also thanked investigators with the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, under the direction of Chief Christopher W. Gerold, for their assistance in connection with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Brendan Day, Attorney-in-Charge of the Trenton Branch Office, and Martha K. Nye, of the Criminal Division in Trenton.