Mark Manuel, who was alleged to have been a promoter of the schemes known as MPire and MRT, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for fraud, in an unrelated scheme known as Eden Gifted Products. Mark Manuel was one of three defendants sentenced to prison in July, 2014. United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated that Jerry Elmo Hartsoe, age 57, of West Columbia, James Chappel Dew, age 59 of North Myrtle Beach, and Mark Shannon Manuel, age 49 of Franklin, Tennessee, were sentenced to 10 years incarceration by United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie of Columbia for their convictions on eight counts of mail fraud. Facts presented at trial proved that the three men defrauded victims through their West Columbia business, Eden Gifted Properties. The men claimed to be able to eliminate their customers’ debt using a series of secret government accounts.
According to the testimony presented in the case, Hartsoe, Manuel and Dew claimed to have access to a secret government account worth approximately $100 billion. For a fee or “donation” of 10% of the value of the debt, the men claimed to be able to satisfy and pay off mortgages, credit cards and any other types of debt. Using connections within various religious and political groups, the defendants traveled across the United States to host seminars and presentations. After identifying potential victims at these seminars and presentations, the defendants would solicit several thousand dollars from each victim and begin mailing a series of bogus documents to banks and other lenders. Witnesses testified that the men encouraged customers to seek cash advances from credit cards and to raid retirement accounts in order to pay Eden Gifted Properties’ fees. The court found that the men took over $675,000.00 from their victims and intended to cause over $83,000,000.00 in losses to banks and other financial institutions.
Claims made by the men during the trial and during sentencing are similar to arguments presented by so-called “sovereign citizens.” Sovereign citizens” are U.S. citizens who reject their citizenship status and claim that the government is operating outside of its jurisdiction. They generally do not recognize the authority of federal, state or local governments and renounce their obligation to adhere to the laws, policies or regulations created by those governments.
The investigation and convictions were pursued in furtherance of the FBI’s national strategy aimed at disrupting the criminal activity of individuals claiming to be sovereign citizens and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys T. DeWayne Pearson and John Potterfield of the Columbia office.
MRT is the subject of a federal court receivership. Prior to that, Erez Law obtained a $50 million dollar judgment against James Clements and Zeina Smidi, who were alleged to be the original organizers of MRT. At some point in the scheme, Mark Manuel allegedly took over the MRT scheme by moving the investors to his scheme, known as MPire. Manuel also allegedly duped James Clements into investing into the purchase of an airplane, but evidence showed the plane deal was cancelled, and Manuel obtained the deposit for himself without permission of Clements or MRT. Some of the money was recovered in civil litigation against the airplane title company for allegedly releasing the deposit to Manuel, and not back to MRT, then run by Clements. Unfortunately, most of the MRT money was lost between fund taken by Clements, Smidi and Manuel, who spent the money on personal expenses. Other funds were used to pay back investors. As in many Ponzi schemes, no assets were left when when victims finally came forward years after the MRT collapse to complain about the failed company.
However, at least justice finally caught up with Mark Shannon Manuel, and now he’s in jail.