Investors in Cook Fraud Scheme May Get Small Payout

The court-appointed receiver collecting assets from the $190 million Ponzi scheme has asked a judge to approve an "interim distribution" of $2.25 million-which amounts of 1.58 cents on each dollar lost in the scheme.

Six hundred sixty-eight investors who lost money in Trevor Cook's $190 million Ponzi scheme may soon get some of their money back-but likely not anywhere close to the sums they'd hoped to see.

R.J. Zayed, the court-appointed receiver charged with collecting assets from the fraud scheme, filed a motion on Monday, asking Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis to approve an “interim distribution” of $2.25 million to investors who lost money in the scheme. The 668 investors who would share the $2.25 million pot have together lost at least $142.3 million-meaning that the initial payout translates to 1.58 cents for every dollar lost.

Should the distribution receive approval, it will be made on a pro rata basis, meaning that every investor's interim payout will be proportionate to his or her verified loss. The payouts will range from $67.98 to $110,820.95, with an average payout of $3,368.26.

In his motion, Zayed acknowledged that the distribution covers “only a fraction of what was lost,” but said that it “will provide some measure of relief to as many investors as possible in the short-term.” Not all investors will receive a payout as part of this distribution, but additional recovered funds will be doled out later on.

As of September 13, Zayed had collected, liquidated, and frozen about $7.7 million in cash, according to the motion. Of that total, approximately $2.3 million has been used to pay expenses and fees incurred by Zayed in fulfilling the court's receivership orders. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation also obtained $363,700, which will be used later on for restitution in the criminal case against Cook.

On August 25, Cook was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in April to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. According to the plea agreement, Cook-with the help of others-raised at least $190 million from 1,000 or more investors who thought they were investing in a low-risk, high-return foreign-currency trading program. Instead, Cook used their money to make payments to other investors and give funds to Switzerland-based brokerage firm Crown Forex, SA, in an effort to deceive Swiss banking regulators.

Claims for civil restitution in conjunction with the Ponzi scheme must be “supported by independent proof from a reliable entity unrelated to the fraud,” Zayed wrote in the motion, adding that many claims submitted to date have been incomplete. For example, some investors did not provide records to verify their investments with the fraudulent entities and others failed to subtract withdrawals they made prior to the collapse of the Ponzi scheme.

Student volunteers from Century College helped to review investor data, and volunteer MBA students from the University of St. Thomas analyzed investor financial records and created lists of potential claimants. For example, for one Wells Fargo account, the MBA students reviewed almost 2,500 wire transfers and canceled checks.