Clayton man pleads guilty for role in $40 million Ponzi scheme

Staff writerOctober 24, 2011 

A Clayton man charged in a $40 million Ponzi scheme pleaded guilty to his role in the operation today in Charlotte.

Bryan Keith Coats pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit commodities, securities and wire fraud and one count of promotional money laundering conspiracy.

A sentencing date has not been set. Coats faces up 15 years in prison and either a $500,000 fine, or up to twice the amount of property he derived from the money laundering conspiracy.

Coats had his assets frozen in February after he and his companies - Genesis Wealth Management, Coats Estate Planning Services and Coats Wealth Management - were named in a complaint filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has accused Coats and eight co-conspirators of defrauding investors of more than $40 million between October 2007 and December 2009.

One co-conspirator, Keith F. Simmons of West Jefferson in Ashe County, was convicted of money laundering and fraud in December. He has yet to be sentenced.

Another, Deanna Salazar of Yucca Valley, Calif., pleaded guilty to investment fraud conspiracy and tax evasion in December.

According to the government, the group solicited money from investors, many of them elderly and retired, using false and fraudulent claims about Black Diamond and the hedge funds they purported to run.

Black Diamond eventually collapsed without paying out any money, but the conspirators continued to bring in new investors to pay off old investors and to support their own lifestyles, according to the government.

david.bracken@newsobserver.com

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