Federal indictment charges New Yorkers with scamming Middle GA investors out of over $350k

Stock image

Columbus investors allegedly lost more than $369,000 to a New York investment company that claimed it had access to shares of high-profile companies including Airbnb, Palantir, Coupang, Stripe and SpaceX before the companies’ initial public offerings.

This week, a federal grand jury returned indictments charging Iakovou, 29, of New York City and Penelope Zbravos, 27, of Queens, New York, with local crimes involving financial fraud schemes.

Iakovou was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 17 counts of wire fraud and two counts of engaging in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.

Iakovou’s indictment alleges he defrauded investors under his company, Vika Ventures LLC, in a fraud scheme involving pre-ipo investments, which are investments in shares of private companies before those companies become listed on a public stock market exchange. Iakovou was CEO of the company and Zbravos was the financial manager.

Between Dec. 2019 and Dec. 2021, Iakovou contacted victims via phone or email claiming he had access to shares in specific private companies before they were listed on the stock exchange, according to the indictment.

If convicted, Iakovou could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud charges and 10 years in prison with an additional $250,000 fine for the monetary transactions involving criminally derived property charges.

Because Zbravos allegedly had knowledge of at least one of Iakovou’s crimes, she was charged with one count of misprision of a felony. She allegedly transferred money from Vika accounts to various accounts controlled by her and Iakovou, according to her indictment. If convicted, Zbravos could face up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Initial appearances and arraignments in the Middle District of Georgia for both defendants are scheduled for Dec. 14.

Individuals who believe they may be a victim of this investment fraud can contact the U.S. Secret Service, Albany, Georgia, Resident Agency at 229-430-8442.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Williams is prosecuting the case.