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Currency News

Owner of BB&T headquarters indicted

The Atlanta businessman who paired up with a Charlotte investor to purchase the BB&T headquarters building in late 2014 has been indicted, with prosecutors seeking the forfeiture of the downtown Winston-Salem office tower.

A federal grand jury in Atlanta in January signed off on multiple criminal charges against Tyson "Ty" Rhame, whose company, Sterling Currency Group, had been targeted by federal investigators looking into allegations of money laundering and fraud.

Rhame and Gee, the head of Pineville-based real estate investment firm GVest Capital, announced in December 2014 they had purchased BB&T Financial Center at 200 W. Fourth St. in Winston-Salem for $60 million.

Rhame is accused of committing mail and wire fraud as well as money laundering through Sterling Currency Group, which acts as a buyer and seller of the Iraqi dinar and is accused of defrauding investors by spreading false information about buying the Iraqi currency as an investment.

Along with Rhame, the grand jury indicted James Shaw, a co-owner of Sterling Currency Group, and Frank Bell, the company's chief operating office, as well as Terrence Keller, who ran a website and Internet chat forum that focused on the potential investment value of the Iraqi dinar.

The FBI has been investigating schemes involving the purchase of Iraqi dinar, saying that since the war in Iraq, "various promoters have claimed that the Iraqi dinar will undergo a 'revaluation,' meaning that dinar holders would make enormous profits." That revaluation has not occurred, and many believe it will never occur.

According to the indictment, Keller had a secret arrangement with Rhame, Shaw and Bell "to promote and 'pump' the Iraqi dinar in exchange for payments made by Sterling."

Investigators say Sterling grossed more than $600 million in revenue between 2010 and June 2015, with Rhame and Shaw receiving more than $180 million from the company during that stretch.

In a statement posted on its website, Sterling Currency Group says the charges are without merit, and "Sterling and the named individuals strongly deny the U.S. Attorney's charges and look forward to vigorously defending themselves throughout this process and at trial."

Along with millions of dollars dispersed in multiple bank accounts, the federal government is seeking the forfeiture of three airplanes, three cars and properties in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina, including BB&T Financial Center.

At the time the BB&T building was purchased, Gee and Rhame said that the property was a long-term investment and that they planned to sell stakes in the building to investors looking for "a 1031 exchange transaction." That's a transaction that lets investors delay capital gains taxes by investing in another, similar property soon after they make those gains.

In a statement announcing the deal, Rhame called the purchase "a generational investment for my family office," saying that "being part of BB&T and Winston-Salem is a winning combination."

Gee did not immediately return a call requesting comment on the charges again Rhame.

In June, when investigators first sought to seize property from Rhame as part of the investigation, an attorney representing Gee told the Triad Business Journal that Gee was not involved in Sterling Currency Group, and that Rhame was not involved in Gvest Capital. The attorney Reg Hamel of Charlotte also said there had not been any legal action against Gvest, nor did he expect there to be any.

"So far as we know, it won't in any way affect the short-term or long-term operation" of BB&T Financial Center, Hamel said.

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