Santa Barbara man involved in $12 million Ponzi scheme charged with tax evasion

Darrell Aviss during a 2008 TV interview about overseas investment strategies. | Credit: Courtesy

The Santa Barbara man who allegedly stole $12 million from victims in an eight-year Ponzi scheme now faces new charges of failing to pay more than $3 million in federal taxes on income and concealment of bank accounts in Monaco.

Darrell Arnold Aviss, 64, has been charged with three counts of tax evasion, six counts of failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts and one count of aggravated identity theft, in addition to his original charges five counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering. He is due to stand trial on July 26, 2022.

Aviss was arrested in June 2021 and released in September 2021 on $200,000 bond. Between 2012 and 2020, Aviss allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme that promised to invest victims’ money in annuities from Swiss insurance companies. Most of the victims were over the age of 60 and most of the $12 million he stole came from a single victim, according to court documents. Aviss allegedly did not use any of the victims’ funds to purchase annuities; Instead, Aviss reportedly used the money to support his lavish lifestyle, which included luxury cars, U2 concert tickets, expensive watches and trips to Monaco.

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Aviss also arranged for the victims to receive statements showing that the value of the annuities was increasing, and some of the money was refunded to the victims to keep the program running.

The latest indictment alleges that Aviss also defrauded the United States by failing to file tax returns for 2014, 2015 and 2016 and paying no income tax for those years. Aviss reportedly avoided paying more than $3 million in income taxes. He also failed to file with the Treasury Department reports on foreign bank and financial accounts for the years 2015 to 2020, relating to the accounts he held in Monaco. Aviss allegedly transferred victims’ money to these offshore accounts, one of which was created with information from an identity theft victim.

If convicted of the charges in the indictment that replaces it, Aviss would face decades in federal prison. For example, each of the five counts of wire fraud carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Assistant United States Attorney Monica E. Tait of the Major Fraud Section is prosecuting the case.

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