PHOENIX–A fraudulent investment scheme has ended in a conviction after an investigation showed that an institution offering risk-free investments in humanitarian projects diverted funds to the accounts of Bradley Tennison, a former financial advisor and Frederick Arias, a retired Arizona DPS officer, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office today announced.
The successful investigation, which was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 25, 2018, alleged that Tennison and Arias, conspired to defraud investors through an entity known as The Joseph Project. The organization purported to be a Christian institution offering risk-free investments with guaranteed rates of return and the promise of contributing to humanitarian projects.
However, it was discovered that approximately $9.5 million obtained from investors between December 2015 and September 2016 was not used as represented. Instead, the funds were transferred to various accounts, including those belonging to Tennison and Arias.
Tennison and Arias were indicted on 19 felony counts, on June 17, 2019, including Conspiracy, Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, and Money Laundering. While Tennison has been convicted and ordered to pay restitution exceeding $9 million in monthly installments, Arias evaded capture. A warrant was issued for his apprehension and remains active.
The following month, the FBI traced $1 million of victim money to the purchase of 50,820 1-ounce collector silver coins. These assets, acquired through Tennison and Arias’ business aliases, were being stored in New York under the custody of Brinks, awaiting shipment overseas.
The AAGO and the FBI issued a notice of seizure to Brinks on July 18, 2019, halting the planned overseas transfer that would have blocked the return of the assets to the victims. Subsequently, a seizure warrant was obtained on August 7, 2019, authorizing the return of the seized assets to Arizona and their forfeiture.
The AAGO's Financial Remedies Section filed a civil forfeiture action (CV2019-012279) in Maricopa County Superior Court to seek the forfeiture of these assets for victim recovery. The four-year litigation process with a self-proclaimed "interim Treasurer" of “G47 Global Initiative” an alter-ego entity, contested the forfeiture in the trial court and later in the Court of Appeals.
However, on February 16, 2021, the AAGO achieved a forfeiture judgment. Subsequent attempts for a new trial and to set aside the judgment were unsuccessful in 2021 and 2022, respectively. On March 28, 2023, the Court of Appeals (1 CA-CV 21-0204) affirmed the forfeiture judgment. During the litigation period, the seized assets' value increased to $1.67 million.
In accordance with the terms of the forfeiture judgment, the assets will be liquidated, and the AAGO's Financial Remedies Section will remit the net proceeds to the Clerk of Court. These funds will be allocated to the victims in compliance with the restitution order issued in the criminal case.
Special Agent Martin Hellmer of the FBI's Phoenix Field Office led the investigation, with the assistance of AAGO Special Agent Ronald Jackson, in the forfeiture proceedings. The AAGO's Fraud and Special Prosecutions Section conducted the successful criminal prosecution. AAGO Financial Remedies Section Unit Chief Counsel Eric Rothiblum oversaw the initial contact and seizure process and will coordinate final distribution for the victims.
Attorney General Mayes reminds the public if an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, you can file a complaint by visiting www.azag.gov. If you need a complaint form sent to you, contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431.