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Columbia businessman found guilty in multi-million dollar fraud case

Friday, December 5, 2008 | 6:34 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Columbia businessman Daryl Miles Brown, 31, has been convicted by a federal jury for his part in a multi-million-dollar investment and money-laundering conspiracy.

John F. Wood, United States attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced the conviction Friday afternoon, according to Don Ledford, Wood's public affairs officer.

Brown faced 11 counts of wire and travel fraud. In December 2005, a 12th count was added, alleging Brown conspired to commit money laundering, the Missourian previously reported.

Brown had been the chairman of Columbia-based The Vertical Group and principal of Fulton-based Cerberus Inc., according to Ledford.

Ledford said that Brown "devised a business scheme to solicit victims to invest in what he claimed were opportunities to purchase high-yield, short-term investments that were unavailable to the general public." He also said that victims of the fraud scheme invested more than $2 million in the fake securities, and that Brown referred to the investment opportunities as "standby letters of credit."

According to Ledford, the scheme lasted from December 2004 to September 2005, during which time Brown made numerous false statements about the investments to his victims. Ledford said that Brown also falsely claimed he had an MU business degree and that he had been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs professional football team.

Brown had instructed victims to wire money to bank accounts in Florida and elsewhere and, according to Ledford, used the money for such things as "providing money to a girlfriend, entertainment and hotel rooms."

Co-defendant Sylvester L. Mitchell III, a Columbia resident and employee of The Vertical Group, pleaded guilty for his role in the investment scheme on March 28, 2007, Ledford said.

Another co-defendant, 59-year-old Dennis Cole, of Clearwater, Fla., pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme on Sept. 22, 2006, in a separate but related case, according to Ledford.

Ledford said a sentencing hearing will need to be scheduled following an investigation by the United States Probation Office. He also said that currently the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri couldn't comment on its preferred sentencing of Brown.

"I'm not in a position to talk to that," Ledford said. "The probation office will conduct an investigation and then make a recommendation, and then we will be given an opportunity to comment on that recommendation."


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