Fri, Nov 18, 2005
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| storyFooter(); Investigators raid home in suspected scam probeStaff Report
ENOCHVILLE — Rowan County Sheriff's deputies and state agents investigating a possible Internet investment scam raided a home on Wright Road earlier this week and seized a computer and numerous documents.
The investigators served a search warrant on the home of Sammy and Shelia Biggerstaff, at 8490 Wright Road. The couple has not been charged, but the investigation is continuing, Sheriff's Lt. John Sifford said Thursday.
According to Sheriff's Detective Jody Burleyson's sworn statement, 10 people had contacted the Sheriff's Department on Sept. 7, saying they had given money to the Biggerstaffs to invest in what they called the "PIPS" program.
The 10 people said they had given the couple a total of $33,960. As individuals, the investors gave as little as $1,000 and as much as $5,250.
"Shelia and Sammy Biggerstaff represented to them that their investment would earn interest at a rate of 2.5 percent per day to be compounded daily," Burleyson says in his statement, which was filed with the Clerk of Court, along with the search warrant and a list of items seized.
But, Burleyson said, "From limited information available, the PIPS scheme may be an illegal investment scheme." PIPS may stand for People in Profit Systems, Private Investment Profit System, Pureinvestor and PIPS Financial Services, he said.
Citing two state investigators, Burleyson said he believes at least six states — Alaska, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oregon and Iowa — have issued cease-and-desist orders against the PIPS investment program and its agents. Those states had investigated PIPS for the sale of unregistered securities and securities fraud.
Burleyson cited the cases of five people — three from Kannapolis, one from Concord and another whose hometown was not identified — who said they gave the Burleysons thousands of dollars between April and July of this year.
But one of the investors has since confronted Shelia Biggerstaff with the fact that PIPS was not paying investors. The Kannapolis investor told state agent Sarah M. Brake that Biggerstaff "just sort of giggled and admitted that she knew that it hadn't paid out since November of last year."
In his sworn statement, Burleyson said he spoke to the Biggerstaffs on Sept. 10, and Shelia Biggerstaff "stated that she had taken money from several people to invest over the Internet in a program known as PIPS.
"Shelia stated that the records were set up electronically through her computer and there were no receipts."
Burleyson also noted that in mid-August, the PIPS Web site "went off line and is currently offline."
"The investors mentioned in this affidavit have no way of withdrawing their money from the PIPS program," Burleyson says in court documents. "The Biggerstaffs have refused to refund any of the money given to them by these individuals."
The Biggerstaffs told some of the investors that PIPS had been operating since 2001 and invested money in the Malaysian stock market, through a man named Bryan Marsden, according to Burleyson's statement.
Sammy Biggerstaff told a Kannapolis woman "that a $465 investment would make you a millionaire in three years," Burleyson says in court papers.
The Biggerstaffs told one man in June that "Marsden owned PIPS along with several other companies, which include a film production company out of Australia, a children's Bible book printing company, an investment firm, a global real estate company and a nonprofit charity organization," Burleyson says. The Biggerstaffs repeated the promise that investors would earn 2 percent interest "compounded per business day."
In his sworn statement, Burleyson says, "Shelia and Sammy Biggerstaff knew that the PIPS program had not paid out to investors since November 2004 and would have realized that the 'funds' in the PIPS accounts were worthless."
Brake, the securities investigator for the N.C. Secretary of State's office, said the PIPS investment program is not registered with the state's Securities Division and is not traded on any exchange or covered by federal law.
The Biggerstaffs live in a modest brick home, an in-ground pool to the left of the house, on the rural, western end of Wright Road. A man standing in the carport of the house Thursday afternoon told a Post reporter he had no comment on the search warrant or the allegations.
Sheriff's Lt. John Sifford said the department would not comment further on its investigation.
Sarah Brake is a securities investigator for the N.C. Secretary of State, but a spokesman for that office said the agency would have no comment.