KEMP, Texas — One man has been sentenced and another is awaiting sentencing in what federal prosecutors say was an "lavish and elaborate scheme" to defraud a Kaufman County man of more than $1 million.
The scheme, according to a federal indictment obtained by inForney.com, included an effort by co-defendants — 52-year-old Johnny Clifton and 25-year-old Joshua Pugh — to convince their victim they were wealthy, from well-known and well-connected families, members of the Illuminati, and founding officers of an elite real estate company, Sectors Global Management.
Prosecutors say they were none of that — Pugh, whose work history included brief stints of entry-level positions at Little Ceasars Pizza and Burger King, and Clifton, a disgraced oil and gas investments fraudster.
Their victim, a "devout, religious, and sheltered cabinet maker in rural Texas," according to the affidavit, was a Mennonite in eastern Kaufman County.
The co-defendants were indicted on six counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, aiding and abetting.
In August 2019, Clifton pled guilty to count 1 of the indictment, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and was sentenced to 160 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Pugh pled guilty to the same charge in February 2019 and is awaiting sentencing. His latest sentencing hearing was set for December 9, 2019, but, was delayed to allow family testimony in an effort to seek leniency.
Because of the victim's religious beliefs, he had little exposure to the media or current events, making him more susceptible to the false claims made by Pugh and Clifton, according to the indictment.
The co-defendants conspired between November 2015 and March 2017 to defraud the victim. Clifton, however, had met the victim through a previous investment dealing in 2009 with an unnamed company, states the indictment.
Clifton made contact with the victim, in the latest scheme, with an investment opportunity in Sectors Global Management. Clifton told the victim Sectors was backed by elite individuals, including members of the Illuminati, which Clifton alleged to be a member with Pugh.
The Illuminati, as described by Clifton to the victim, was "a clandestine cabal of high net worth individuals who delegated control of the world to a select group of 43 families through the manipulation of banks, politics, and intelligence/law enforcement organizations," states the indictment.
In an effort to convince the victim, the co-defendants engaged in "ostentatious ruses," including a visit to the victim's workplace in Kemp.
During such visits, prosecutors say the co-defendants rented a caravan of security vehicles, manned with multiple off-duty law enforcement officers, to escorted Pugh in a Bentley. The security personnel would wear ear pieces and, during one occasion, a helicopter was rented to accompany the caravan of vehicles.
The co-defendants also created a "library of falsified documents" to corroborate their claims including: falsified emails detailing major business deals; letters and communications from major corporations, sports franchises, and the NBA; travel itineraries with private jets; and falsified tax documents listing an annual income of $45 million.
Clifton withdrew approximately $518,000 from an account with funds defrauded from the victim and purchased two Porsche Panameras and one Maserati Quattroporte.
Pugh purchased $18,500 in Louis Vuitton merchandise, a $3,300 black mink stroller coat, a $5,500 Super Bowl ticket which he traveled to in a private jet, chartered helicopter rides, and spent $400 per month to an individual who would put in and take out his contact lenses on a daily basis.
Pugh and Clifton threatened the victim, his family, business, and religion in an effort to silence and intimidate him, states the indictment.
A new sentencing hearing had not been scheduled for Pugh at the time of press.
Clifton has since been transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Sandstone low-security facility in Sandstone, Minnesota.