Allen Frederick Wichtendahl and Diana Stewart were indicted Thursday on 16 federal counts of defrauding investors of more than $1 million.
Wichtendahl, age 60, and Stewart, 49, both of Lowell, collected money from investors for projects, including a Nigerian power plant. A federal grand jury in Fort Smith handed down the charges, announced by Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, and Randy Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of the Arkansas Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Charges include three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud four counts of securities fraud, four counts of selling an unregistered security and two counts of money laundering. Stewart was charged with aiding and abetting on all 16 counts.
According to court documents Wichtendahl solicited investors to make payments to “New Vision Technology.” The scheme dates back to the mid-1990s and continued after he moved from Florida to northwest Arkansas.
“Wichtendahl coaxed investors by representing that New Vision Technology sold products in Bulgaria and planned to build a power plant, sell tractors, and establish a cassava processing facility in Nigeria,” according to court documents. “Wichtendahl also established a misleading website and represented that he had made a $12 million capital investment in the company.
"From July 2009 to September 2012, Wichtendahl and Stewart collected over one million dollars from investors. The majority of this money was used to pay for Wichtendahl and Stewart’s personal expenses and to maintain the appearance of a legitimate business enterprise. Investors received nothing in return for their money.”
The two face the following maximum penalties for each count charged: (1) mail fraud—$250,000 fine and 20 years imprisonment; (2) wire fraud—$250,000 fine and 20 years imprisonment; (3) securities fraud—$5 million fine and 20 years imprisonment; (4) failure to register a security—$10,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment; (5) money laundering—$250,000 fine (or twice the amount of criminally derived property) and 10 years imprisonment.
“As this case and others demonstrate, it is a priority for our office to investigate and prosecute those who swindle investors out of their hard-earned money by fraud and deceit,” Eldridge said.
Investigation for the case was handled by the FBI, IRS, the Rogers Police Department and the United States Postal Service.