SANTA ANA– A jury has convicted an Irvine man of federal charges for running an investment scam that defrauded a businessman who believed he was investing in products related to stem cell research.
Aiman Alexander Ataba, 52, was found guilty late Tuesday of eight counts of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering. The jury’s verdicts followed a two-day trial in United States District Court.
The jury found that Ataba victimized a Riverside County man by convincing the victim to invest in his Fountain Valley business, Innovation Validation and Design Technologies. Ataba falsely claimed that the investments would be used to manufacture and sell a device that would be used in hospitals for stem cell research.
The victim was given stock warrants that would purportedly enable him to purchase stock in Ataba’s company at a discount. Ataba falsely claimed that his company was on the verge of being acquired. Based on the false claims, the victim invested $648,000 in Ataba’s company over a 4½-year period.
“Immediately after receiving the victim’s money, however, [Ataba] immediately went about spending it on his own personal expenses,” according to a case summary filed by prosecutors. “The money was not invested in any company for the development of a device involving stem cell research. Instead, defendant used it to pay for his rent, various living expenses, dining out, gambling, etc. The victim never received any dividends or other form of return or profit on the investment.”
Ataba diverted funds from his business account to his personal account and withdrew approximately $350,000 in cash withdrawals. Many of the withdrawals were made at casinos in Las Vegas and on Indian reservations. Some of the victim’s money was spent to purchase a new Toyota vehicle, which was seized in 2016 by the FBI.
Ataba is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter on July 9, at which time Ataba will face a statutory maximum penalty of 220 years in federal prison.
The investigation into Ataba was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case was tried by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert J. Keenan and Gina J. Kong of the Santa Ana Branch Office.