| News

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Florida man pleads guilty in Pittsburgh federal court to scam netting $3.9 million

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.
By Adam Brandolph
Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 11:27 p.m.

The wealthy family in Nigeria in need of $500 is a hoax.

Your winning lottery ticket in Johannesburg, South Africa, doesn't exist.

And you can't turn your computer into an ATM to “make cash fast.”

“We've known for years there's no secret to making a quick buck, unless it's a fraudster preying on the ignorant,” said Ted Harrington, a Chicago attorney who specializes in representing victims of fraud, including Ponzi schemes. “Some things are too good to be true and too easy to be legal.”

Since 2010, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission said it has brought more than 100 enforcement actions against more than 200 individuals and 250 entities for carrying out such scams.

Among those included in the agency's 2013 records is Fotios Geivelis, 34, of Fort Myers, Fla., who pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Pittsburgh federal court to stealing more than $3.9 million from people seeking loans for humanitarian and job-creating projects.

Geivelis set up Worldwide Funding III Ltd. to con more than three dozen people into believing that for each investment of $60,000 or $90,000, he would obtain an overseas loan of 10 million euros — the equivalent of almost $14 million — according to federal prosecutors and the SEC.

His attorney could not be reached.

Geivelis told the investors they wouldn't be personally liable for paying off the loans.

Instead, the loans would pay for their projects while funding an international “prime bank trading program” that would generate a return of 14 percent per week and pay off the loan. At least one of the investors wired money from a First National Bank of Pennsylvania account in Pittsburgh, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Court documents don't identify the Pittsburgh-area victim. Prosecutors declined to discuss details of the case.

The money Geivelis received didn't go far. He pocketed about 45 percent of it, squandering it on hotels, casinos, restaurants, strip clubs, automobiles, clothing and jewelry, while telling investors that their deals were still in the works, authorities said.

“I have a lot of sympathy for the victims in these cases,” said Joseph C. Peiffer, a New Orleans attorney whose practice includes representing individuals and corporations harmed by investment bankers.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. Carrick crime ‘blitz’ shows early signs of success
  2. Century Inn owner hopes to reopen Washington County landmark, gutted by fire, by end of next year
  3. Alpine touring skiing movement faces uphill climb in Western Pa.
  4. Pittsburgh nonprofit 412 Food Rescue takes surplus food to needy
  5. Pittsburgh police deliver 2,500 Thanksgiving meals through program
  6. Legislators, Wolf agree on one thing: Higher work zone fines
  7. Police investigating after cab driver shot in Hazelwood
  8. Newsmaker: Kostas Pelechrinis
  9. Security policies limit ‘insider threat’ at airports, TSA says
  10. Attorney wants evidence from South Allegheny teacher’s cellphone thrown out
  11. SWAT incident in Ross ends peacefully