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Dearborn man sentenced to prison in investment fraud scheme

A Dearborn man was sentenced Wednesday to 33 months in prison in connection with an investment fraud scheme involving more than $500,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Ali Rameh Bazzi, 27, pleaded guilty in August to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering related to what prosecutors described as taking investments from about 30 people to fund a lavish lifestyle.

According to a criminal information filed last year, Bazzi launched Welther Oaks LLC in 2018 and allegedly solicited funds from investors across the country, including Michigan, Illinois and California.

Though not licensed, he portrayed himself as an investment manager who used a unique trading model to generate high return rates for investors Bazzi told were involved in commodities and foreign exchange markets, the filing stated.

To corroborate the claims, Bazzi provided the investors with individualized account statements purported to show trading activity and how their investment values grew, investigators reported.

However, the statements were fake, and Bazzi diverted most of the money he gained to his own personal use and expenses, including “leasing exotic sports cars, acquiring jewelry and funding the day-to-day living expenses of a comfortable lifestyle,” federal officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Through March 2020, Bazzi gained approximately $540,000 from nearly 30 investors but only returned $99,000, according to the release.

An investigation was conducted by the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigations Division.

“This defendant lived lavishly on funds that he stole from those who entrusted him with their investments,” U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said Wednesday. “His lies and deceit were costly to his victims and to the community as a whole. Today’s sentence was wholly warranted and I hope it will deter anyone seeking to enrich themselves by defrauding innocent investors.”

Bazzi’s attorney, Robert Morgan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

In a sentencing memorandum, Morgan said Bazzi, who learned about investing through an online program and once worked at a T-Mobile store in New York, “did not wake up one morning and decide to construct a criminal scheme. His original intention was to become legitimately involved in investing.”

Morgan noted his client willingly cooperated with investigators, showed an “extraordinary acceptance of responsibility” and a probation officer determined he was unlikely to reoffend.

“He has learned his lesson and understands he must be punished,” Morgan wrote. “His hope is that he can work hard with a goal of making complete restitution.”

In addition to prison, Bazzi has been ordered to pay $441,231 in restitution to his victims. 

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