Arrests Made in Conjunction with Benchmark Investigation
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 24, 2013|
KNOXVILLE—On Thursday, May 23, 2013, four individuals were taken into custody by federal agents in conjunction with an investigation involving Benchmark Capital Inc. Brian Murphy, Paulynn Wright, and Dona Rector were arrested Thursday morning by federal agents. Tiffiny Thompson voluntarily surrendered to authorities after being informed that charges has been filed against her. Murphy and Thompson pleaded not guilty during their arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton. The arraignment of Wright and Rector has been scheduled for May 24, 2013, at 10:00 a.m.. All four were released pending trial, which will be scheduled at a status conference on June 4, 2013.
Charges against these four individuals are contained in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on May 21, 2013. Murphy, Thompson, and Wright are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering. Rector is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The superseding indictment also contains additional charges against Joyce Allen and Kay Thomas, who were initially indicted in July 2012.
The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum sentence for the fraud conspiracy charge is 30 years in prison.
The indictment alleges that Benchmark Capital Inc. was engaged in an elaborate scheme that lured investors, many of whom were elderly, into investing their retirement savings and the equity in their homes in phony annuity investments. According to the indictment, more than $42.6 million was invested in the Benchmark scheme, resulting in a net loss of more than $18 million to investors. The scheme unraveled early last year, following the suicide of Charles Candler in March 2012.
This indictment is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank M. Dale, Jr. is representing the United States.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.