Indictment Unsealed Charging Two Individuals in Alleged Financial Fraud Scheme

Indictment Unsealed Charging Two Individuals in Alleged Financial Fraud Scheme

COLUMBUS, Ga. – A federal indictment was unsealed today charging two individuals in a pre-IPO investment scheme.

On Nov. 9, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging George Iakovou, 29, of New York, New York, 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. If convicted, Iakovou faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud charges and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the monetary transactions involving criminally derived property charges.

Co-defendant, Penelope Zbravos, 27, of Queens, New York, is charged with one count of misprision of a felony. If convicted, Zbravos faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Iakovou was previously charged by criminal complaint out of the Middle District of Georgia and taken into custody at JFK International Airport on Oct. 25; he had his initial appearance in the Eastern District of New York and was granted a $1.5 million secured bond at that time. Iakovou and Zbravos have initial appearances and arraignments in the Middle District of Georgia scheduled for Dec. 14.

The indictment alleges that Iakovou defrauded investors under his company, Vika Ventures LLC, in a scheme involving pre-IPO investments. Vika is a boutique investment firm located in New York, New York; Iakovou is CEO and Zbravos was the financial manager of the firm. Pre-IPO investments are investments in shares of private companies before those companies become listed on a public stock market exchange.

From Dec. 2019 to Dec. 30, 2021, Iakovou would communicate via phone or email to victim-investors that he had access to shares in specific private companies at a particular price per share when he did not actually have access or the ability to obtain the pre-IPO shares he advertised to his victim-investors. Iakovou is alleged to have used many different types of artifice to deceive people, including sending victim-investors fraudulent documentation pertaining to the price of shares and company profiles; he would also send Vika subscription agreements for victim-investors to review, sign and return. Vika advertised the ability to sell pre-IPOs for high-profile companies including Airbnb, Palantir, Coupang, Stripe and SpaceX. Two victim-investors reside in Columbus, Georgia, which is located in the Middle District of Georgia.

Iakovou sent emailed instructions for victim-investors to send money to a Vika bank account but he is alleged to have not purchased or delivered the shares of the specific companies to the victim-investors. Co-defendant Zbravos is alleged to have gained knowledge of the fraud through transferring money from Vika accounts to various accounts controlled by her and Iakovou. The amount of the fraud impacting victim-investors in the Middle District of Georgia is currently believed to be more than $369,000.

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.

An indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct, and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.

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