Arkansans Plead Guilty to Internet Ponzi Scheme

by Gwen Moritz  on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 10:56 am  

A photo of Dawn Wright-Olivares on the website BusinessFromHome.org, which carried an interview with her in March 2012, about five months before her sites, Zeekler and ZeekRewards, were shut down.

A Clarksville resident and her stepson made good on their agreement with federal prosecutors in North Carolina by pleading guilty Wednesday morning to their roles in an Internet Ponzi scheme.

Dawn Wright-Olivares, 45, and Daniel C. Olivares, 31, waived their right to be indicted by a grand jury and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Charlotte to charges filed directly by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In a hearing that observers said was uneventful, Dawn Wright-Olivares, identified as the chief operating officer of a North Carolina-based scam called Zeekler and ZeekRewards, pleaded guilty to one count of investment fraud conspiracy and one count of tax fraud conspiracy. Daniel Olivares, the operation's senior technology officer, pleaded guilty to one count of investment fraud conspiracy.

Their plea agreements remain under seal, but in a related civil case, both have agreed to pay restitution — at least $8.18 million from Wright-Olivares (PDF) and at least $3.27 million from Daniel Olivares (PDF).

Both were released Wednesday pending sentencing, and no sentencing hearing has been scheduled.

Dawn Wright-Olivares' lawyer, Brian Cromwell of Charlotte, said he didn't know how long his client had lived in Arkansas. Mitch Weiss, a reporter for The Associated Press in Charlotte who has written extensively about the Zeekler case, said he believed Olivares had moved to Clarksville in 2009 to be near her children from her first marriage. After going into business with Paul Burks, the unindicted founder and president of Zeekler, in 2010, she split time between Clarksville and Lexington, N.C., Weiss said.

 

 

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