Facebook Share Scammer Guilty of Stealing $11 Million

Troy Stratos, who lied his way into the wealthiest circles in Silicon Valley, used the frenzy for pre-IPO Facebook Inc. shares to bilk investors out of $11.25 million, a federal jury in California concluded.

The Sacramento jury found Stratos, 49, guilty of wire fraud and money laundering for masquerading as an agent of billionaire Carlos Slim, prosecutors said Tuesday in a statement. Stratos convinced the manager of a Philadelphia family office to send money that he would in turn use to buy Facebook shares from employees before its initial public offering in May 2012.

Instead, Stratos spent the money paying off old gambling debts and buying a small fleet of luxury cars, the U.S. Justice Department alleged in its 2013 indictment.

The family office manager, Tim Burns, repeatedly wired money from his wealthy clients to Stratos, who promised for months that a deal for the shares was imminent. Family offices manage money, prepare taxes, arrange private jet travel and handle other affairs for wealthy clans.

Stratos went by the name Ken Dennis and made connections that brought him eventually to David Ebersman, then the chief financial officer at Facebook, and Divesh Makan, a money manager to many of the earliest Facebook employees. Burns sent the money in part because Stratos was able to put him on the phone with Ebersman, the government alleged.

Stratos’s scam was exposed when he was arrested in a Los Angeles luxury condominium on Dec. 20, 2011, on charges in a separate scheme. In that one, the government alleges that Stratos stole $7 million from Nicole Murphy, ex-wife of comedian Eddie Murphy, after convincing her to let him invest her divorce settlement. Stratos is scheduled to go on trial in that case on Oct. 5.

The case is U.S. v. Stratos, 2:11-cr-00537, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).

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