In a nationwide investment scheme running from approximately 2011 through 2017, Arizona resident David Alcorn, California resident Aghee William Smith II, and several co-conspirators deceived hundreds of investors into more than $20 million in fraudulent wireless spectrum license applications and dental franchises. In 2019, Alcorn and Smith were named in a 19-count federal indictment in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, facing securities fraud and related charges. Dr. Coleman Bazelon, supported by Dr. Paroma Sanyal, provided testimony about the true value of the spectrum investments. A federal jury convicted Alcorn and Smith on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in February 2022.
In 2011, Aghee William Smith II, an insurance salesperson who offered financial services to clients through his business AW Smith & Associates, began selling fraudulent wireless spectrum and dental franchise investments on behalf of David Alcorn and Kent Maerki, among others. The conspirators repeatedly misrepresented the investments – which, in total, were in excess of $20 million – to potential investors, many of whom were retirees, and subsequently misappropriated significant portions of the investment funds in order to fund their schemes and lavish lifestyles.
In the case of the fraudulent wireless spectrum investments, Alcorn and Maerki – operating under the company Janus Spectrum, LLC – began offering FCC license application services to investors in January 2012. Selling these application services through Smith and others, primarily insurance salespeople, Alcorn and Maerki advertised them as “work free business[es]” that were low-risk investments. In fact, the licenses were virtually worthless, as mainstream wireless broadband providers could not use these licenses for broadband transmission. Janus Spectrum filed for bankruptcy in March 2014 and, in April of that year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoenaed Alcorn and Maerki related to a federal securities investigation into their company. The pair continued to sell the fraudulent investments, failing to tell potential investors about the bankruptcy or the SEC investigation.
Ultimately, Smith, Alcorn, and Maerki were among the six defendants named in a 19-count criminal indictment, with counts including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, unlawful monetary transactions, and criminal forfeiture.
Brattle has been involved in numerous civil and criminal litigations related to this same fraud. In this trial, Brattle was retained to provide expert testimony on the true value of the spectrum licenses being sold, the public nature of that true value, and reasonable costs for FCC license applications.
On February 23, 2022, with the help of Brattle’s expert analysis, a federal jury found Alcorn and Smith guilty on all counts. Alcorn – convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering – faces a maximum penalty of over 200 years in prison; Smith, convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud, faces 90-plus years in prison. Maerki, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in November of 2021 and faces 16 years in prison. Their other co-conspirators face anywhere from 5 to 35 years in prison.
“It is extremely gratifying to use my decades of experience in spectrum license valuation to see justice done in this criminal matter,” said Dr. Bazelon.