KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. — Two men accused of running a Ponzi scheme in Kings Mountain made their first appearance in court Thursday morning.
Investigators said the owners of D&T Investments took millions from investors and spent it on themselves.
Channel 9′s Gina Esposito was inside the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing, where some victims said jail time wasn’t enough. She stopped Austin Page on his way to his first court appearance.
“Anything you want to say to the investors?” Esposito asked.
“No ma’am,” Page said.
He didn’t answer any of Esposito’s questions and neither did Brandon Teague. Channel 9 crews caught Teague leaving out of a restricted exit.
Page and Teague are both charged with mail fraud. Federal documents showed the pair were owners of D&T Investments in Kings Mountain. According to the documents, the men allegedly used millions of dollars from investors on themselves. They spent money on luxury car rentals and trips to Las Vegas, all before buying one-way tickets to Italy.
The pair was arrested on New Year’s Eve after taking a return flight to JFK International Airport in New York.
In court Thursday, Page and Teague were told they face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Last week, one of their alleged victims said jail time wasn’t enough.
“I actually do wanna hear from them,” Stephen Di Tillio said. “I want to know how they can step into somebody’s life, tear it apart, and leave.”
Another victim, Debbie Hicks, gave D&T $20,000 of her retirement money. She is one of 350 investors wondering if they’ll ever get their money back.
“So, where’s the money? That’s my question, where’s all this money?” Hicks asked.
Several people say they gave thousands to investment group with nothing to show for it
The two men were arrested at JFK International Airport in New York on Dec. 31, court records show.
Channel 9 previously spoke to several people who gave thousands of dollars to an investment company with nothing to show for it.
Stephen Di Tillio, of Charlotte, said the $9,000 he invested in D&T Investments was to help him be financially self-dependent for the first time in his life.
“I was planning to do that myself, and they took it,” he said.
He said some of his co-workers had invested with D&T, including Debbie Hicks.
“Basically, I’ve got to start all over,” Hicks said.
In a newly unsealed complaint, law enforcement said that shortly after D&T Investments -- owned by Austin Page and Brandon Teague -- closed in early December, they were inundated with complaints from investors who believed they were victims of fraud.
Authorities said Page and Teague left Charlotte on Nov. 30 on a flight to Italy with no return flight scheduled. When they landed, Page allegedly sent former employees an email saying D&T was closing, the document said.
Investigators said they interviewed a former employee of D&T who alleged more than 350 people invested over $6 million with D&T. The employee estimated the investors were currently owed between $12 million and $18 million.
Hicks said employees at D&T who were also investors showed off their big-dollar purchases, like an $85,000 truck parked outside the business.
“Showing all of us pictures of the $35,000 three-wheeler that he had just bought,” Hicks said.
The complaint said that though Page allegedly told a former employee he was registered and licensed to sell securities, he was not.
The employee said the company had “cash flow issues” in Sept. 2021 and checks that had been made payable to investors were allegedly returned for insufficient funds. The employee also said they had payroll issues. The employee confronted Teague about the matter and told him he didn’t believe there were sufficient funds in company accounts to pay investors back and told Teague he was going to go to jail.
Shortly afterward, Page sent the former employee a screenshot showing an account value of over $16 million which the former employee believed to be true. But according to court documents, law enforcement looked at the screenshot and determined that it was fraudulent. They said the account had a balance of only $6.76 that day.
Investigators looked at the account on Dec. 10 and found a balance of $75.09. They looked at all other bank accounts associated Teague and Page and found negative balances. Their personal accounts had a combined balance of less than $50. Based on the information they found, authorities said the pair do not have enough money to pay investors.
Investors were told their money would be invested in stock and were sent statements showing their investments growing as much as 40% per month. But records show the majority of funds were never actually invested.
|Expenses Teague and Page used investor money for|
|More than $100,000 in Zelle transfers to Austin Page|
|More than $50,000 in Zelle transfers to Brandon Teague|
|More than $450,000 in cash withdrawals|
|More than $70,000 in luxury car rentals|
|More than $66,000 to Caesars Palace and Caesars Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada|
|More than $40,000 in other hotel expenses|
|More than $30,000 in Airbnb expenses|
|More than $30,000 in purchases from Bentley’s restaurant|
|More than $20,000 in purchases from Louis Vuitton|
|More than $20,000 in purchases from Nordstrom|
|More than $18,000 in purchases from Total Wine|
|Numerous other personal expenses|
Di Tillio said after D&T closed, an employee called him to say everyone at the office had gotten a notice from the owners to go home and that the business was closed. Di Tillio said the employee said nothing about the money people had invested.
Investigators said based on the information they gathered, it appeared that Teague and Page were running a Ponzi scheme. The FBI arrested the pair at JFK International on Dec. 31. Each is charged with mail fraud.
The Kings Mountain Police Department said it is investigating the business but wouldn’t say why. Kings Mountain police said they started getting complaints in early December.
They haven’t said how many total complaints they have received.
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