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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Charlotte Investors Victim Of $44M Ponzi Scheme

A Statesville man is indicted on charges of operating a $44 million dollar Ponzi scheme that defrauded over 200 people since 2007.

Daniel Williford faces five federal counts of money laundering following an FBI investigation.

Fifty-five-year-old Daniel Williford doesn't fit the image of someone who runs a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme. He owns a middle-class four-bedroom home in Statesville, valued at about $200,000. He's a former airline pilot who went into the computer business for himself about 20 years ago.

And in the last six years, the U.S. Attorney's office says he's been reaching out to people in the Charlotte area and elsewhere to invest in wireless internet equipment, internet towers and other companies.

But FBI special agent John Strong says Williford would keep most of the money for himself. The indictment says he used it to pay off his son's tuition at Georgia Tech and his own credit card bills and personal expenses.

In all, the FBI found that he only invested about $7.7 million of the $44 million he received. 

Williford's company, VeloceNet, provided wireless internet service in the Statesville and Triangle areas.

In January of this year, the indictment says Williford made a false statement that the paid back each investor through revenue, bank loans or personal funds. 

Of course, in a Ponzi scheme, sooner or later, people expect to see a return on their investment, so the indictment says he would solicit new clients so he could use their money to make interest payments to older clients.

Williford faces up to 50 years in prison and up to $5.5 million in fines.