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3 Atlanta men convicted in Iraqi currency scheme that made millions

Atlanta-area men who made millions by selling foreign currencies have been convicted on charges they schemed to defraud investors, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Sterling Currency Group co-owners Tyson Rhame and James Shaw and Sterling COO Frank Bell were convicted of mail and wire fraud conspiracy and multiple counts of mail and wire fraud. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal law enforcement agents. 

The men were convicted by a federal jury following a five-week trial. 

Evidence showed the defendants made investors believe they would get rich by investing in the Iraqi dinar because it was about to revalue. Such a revaluation did not come. 

Sterling grossed more than $600 million in revenue from the sale of the Iraqi dinar and other currencies, while Rhame and Shaw received more than $180 million in distributions between 2010 and 2015, a news release said.

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Records showed Rhame and Shaw had mansions, luxury cars and property along the Florida panhandle. According to emails cited in a complaint in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the men knew they were committing a crime. 

“We are risking serious jail time as promoters of a Ponzi scheme…” James Shaw wrote Rhame in a 2010 email. Shaw also said in the email that his wife had been “very nervous” and “crying” because “she knows we are running an illegal operation.”

Rhame, 53, and Shaw, 55, both of Atlanta, and Bell, 55, of Decatur, were acquitted of money laundering charges. A fourth defendant, Terrence Keller, was acquitted of all charges at trial. 

Staff writer Willoughby Mariano contributed to this story.


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