| | | Effective PR

Money laundering conviction for Ponzi fraudster

More than 100 people put more than USD10 million dollars into, amongst other things, a fake food business. That's a lot of money on average so we can assume these were not stupid people. George S. Blankenbaker Jr., 56 found a honey hole and worked it hard. His reward is jail.

That's not the end of the story...

Blankenbaker was subject to investigation by an alphabet soup of US enforcement agencies. USPS (the US Postal Service) SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission - which has no power to prosecute criminal charges) and the DOJ (the US Department of Justice).

Between May 2008 and August 2016, Blankenbaker created three business entities, Stargrower Commercial Bridge Loan Fund 1 LLC, Stargrower Asset Management LLC and EDU Holding Trust.

In relation to the Stargrower companies, (LLC is one of many designations denoting companies) he encouraged "investment" for the purposes of shipping containers of food. What food, where from, where to and why has is not apparent from the reports presently to hand. In court papers it was vaguely described as “international trade of fast moving consumer products similar to what you would find in a grocery store.” So that's clear.

But they were not investments as we know them: they were loans upon which interest was expected to be made.

Whatever the stated purpose, Blankenbaker spent the money on himself, on other unrelated businesses and on paying interest to previous "investors."

The losses were not, eventually, as much as the headline suggests: 34 people lost a total of USD1.4m.

Blankenbaker, a graduate from Indiana University, was sentenced to five years jail plus three years supervised release on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

That will, one assumes, have a negative effect on his other businesses: he is "president, secretary, treasurer and director" of Stevia Corp, the shares of which are traded on the over the counter market. It's current price is USD0.0042. That was, yesterday, following his conviction, an increase of 0.35% on a volume of 2.3 million shares. He is the only listed officer. That is reminiscent of the Stargrower companies where he was the only signatory for the company's bank accounts.

He is, or was, also listed as an officer of Growers Synergy Pte Limited, a company registered in Singapore and appears to be at pre-seed stage in agricultural research projects the objective of which is to secure patents in Singapore or, depending on which report one reads "working with PureCircle (www.purecircle.com) to develop a sustainable and consistent supply chain of quality Stevia leaves to be grown in South East Asia to meet the exploding demand for natural, zero calorie sweeteners. "

PureCircle's website refers to "PureCircle by Ingredion." Ingredion is an NYSE listed company based in Chicago. PureCircle was listed on the LSE and was distressed: indeed, the proposed acquisition by SRSS Holdings Limited, a company formed by Ingredion for the purposes of the acquisition, had to be approved by the Court in Bermuda where PureCircle was registered. The company's London Stock Exchange listing ceased data in June 2020.

Ingredion is an investment company for the food industry. It is easy to see why they would be interested in stevia. But a far more interesting question is whether that includes any dealings, direct or indirect, with Stevia Inc and its seemingly sole human connection or whether the Singapore Joint Venture still maintains its association with him.

---------------- Advertising ----------------

Essentials - Financial Crime Risks of Corporations, Trusts and other business structures - three module bundle


World Money Lau...