Two hedge fund managers have been indicted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice for allegedly selling fake shares in Uber, Airbnb, and Alibaba and using the money to pay for visits to Las Vegas casinos, stays at high-end hotels, and nights at "gentlemen's clubs."
Jaswant Singh Gill — also known as Jason Gill — and Javier Carlos Rios were accused of stealing more than $5.5 million of the $9.3 million they raised from investors who thought they were buying pre-IPO stock in rapidly growing companies. According to the complaint, the accused promised "access to alternative investment strategies that were previously only available to the one-percenters" to lure in middle class investors, touting their "close ties" with Silicon Valley companies as an apparent way to get lucrative but difficult-to-obtain shares in companies like Uber before they went public.
But neither Gill nor Rios could provide evidence that any such shares had actually been purchased. Instead, the duo used new investment money to pay interest back to earlier investors, a tactic the DoJ describes as "a classic Ponzi scheme." In addition to their "jaunts" to Vegas, Gill and Rios reportedly used the money to attend professional sporting events, pay their rent, and buy items from luxury retail stores. If convicted, both men face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud, and hefty fines.