2006-10-06 / Front Page

Camarillo attorney arrested on fraud charges

Lawyer's alleged scheme swindled investors out of $1.2 million
By Daniel Wolowicz camarillo@theacorn.com

Robert Troy Caron, 49, was arrested Mon., Oct. 2 for allegedly bilking a dozen investors out of $1.2 million in a fraudulent investment scheme that lasted from 1999 to 2001, officials with the Ventura County district attorney's office said.

Caron was arrested at his Camarillo home without incident, said Deputy Chief Investigator Vinse Gilliam with the D.A.'s office.

The arrest caps a three-year investigation that Gilliam said was complicated by the fact that Caron's web of investors spanned the United States.

According to Gilliam, one of the lead financial investigators called it "one of the most egregious cases of investment fraud he'd ever seen."

Caron, a personal injury attorney and sports agent with offices in Oxnard, was arrested on 12 counts of securities fraud stemming from a Ponzi scheme that left his victims with only $630,000 after they invested $1.85 million in purported California strawberry farms, Gilliam said.

According to investigators, Caron siphoned millions of dollars from "unsophisticated investors" through his company, Transglobal Funding., Inc., personally guaranteeing "spectacular returns within a very short time."

"He was promising people 50 to 100 percent annual return for a period of two years," Gilliam said. "And in other cases, he was telling them they'd make 10 to 25 percent return every three weeks."

Gilliam said the large-scale scheme may involve more than 50 victims, but that only 12 have agreed to press charges.

Caron posted bail on Monday night, Gilliam said. The arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 10 in Ventura County Superior Court. Although Gilliam did not say whether the D.A.'s office considered Caron a flight risk, he did point to Caron's $100,000 bail, 10 times higher than what is typical in a fraud case of this nature.

Caron is no stranger to the Ventura court system. Between 1992 and 2006, he was named as a defendant in 32 civil cases, according to officials with the D.A.'s office.

The investigation that resulted in Caron's recent arrest was in connection with the much-publicized 2003 case that ended in the arrests of Dennis and Brenda Willingham.

The couple allegedly swindled $8 million from investors in a similar scheme involving illegitimate investments in strawberry farms.

"Caron...has done business with the Willinghams, bankrupt Oxnard investment adviser Donald Lukens, convicted felon Brian Russell Stearns of Austin, Texas, and DFJ Italia, a bankrupt investment firm suspected of running a Ponzi scheme in Orange County," according to a 2001 article from the Pacific Coast Busi ness Times.

In the mid '90s, Caron opened Pro Manage, an Oxnard-based sports agency, to represent professional athletes.

The firm came to national attention in 1995 when it was alleged that University of Southern California running back Shawn Walters accepted nearly $16,000 from Caron.

Walters and fellow teammates defensive end Israel Ifeanyi and linebacker Errick Herrin were all suspended that year by the NCAA for reportedly taking money from Caron's sports agency.

Caron later paid the university $50,000 to settle the lawsuit brought against him by USC because of the incident. In addition, he was given a 60-day suspension and one year of probation in 1998 by the State Bar of California.

Caron's probation sentence in 1998 came directly after a 1997 order by the State Bar to place him on probation for mishandling money his client received following a personal injury suit.

Also in 1995, the NCAA suspended University of Utah's Jessie Brandon for seven games at the start of the season because Caron allegedly gave the former Ventura College basketball star a pager and a trip to Cancun, Mexico.

The following year, Caron again found himself at the center of a scandal involving an athlete.

Published reports revealed that Caron and Don Lukens had agreed to pay local boxer Fernando Vargas' mother more than $20,000 if the Olympicbound fighter agreed to use Caron as his agent.

While the contract was under investigation by the U.S. Olympic Committee, Vargas' amateur status was in question and he was temporarily suspended from competing in Atlanta that year.

The committee eventually allowed Vargas to box after the contract was nullified.

Six years later, Vargas was one of the numerous investors who lost money in the Willinghams' Ponzi scheme.

Because Caron was allegedly part of the illegal investment scheme, Vargas filed a law suit against Caron to reclaim the money he lost through the investments Caron had handled. That case was dismissed earlier this year.

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