GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The founders of an alleged fake “hedge fund” in Kings Mountain pleaded guilty to coordinating a $4 million Ponzi scheme Wednesday, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

According to plea documents, 26-year-old Austin Page of Grover and 26-year-old Brandon Teague of Belmont operated an investment scheme from October 2020 to December 2021.

The scheme allegedly defrauded hundreds of investors, including some who were at or near retirement age, of more than $4 million, the Department of Justice said.

Documents showed Page and Teague told investors that they ran a hedge fund called D&T Investment Group in Kings Mountain. The group claimed to invest in a number of securities, including stock in well-known companies like Apple.

However, prosecutors said, D&T was not a hedge fund and it did not hold any securities licenses or registrations. Page and Teague were also not licensed to sell securities and had no background in investing.

The two men’s background was actually in selling campers, the DOJ said.

According to court documents and their own admissions, Page and Teague required investors to sign an investment contract with D&T that claimed the group would guarantee 100% of the investors’ initial investment and that they would receive 70% of trading profits.

In fact, officials say, the money was not guaranteed and the “profits” that investors received were Ponzi-style payments, where Page and Teague used new investors’ money to make payments to existing investors.

The men are also accused of sending victims monthly statements that showed fake trading gains to cover up the fraud.

The DOJ said that when certain investors and D&T employees began to question the legitimacy of the company, Page created fake screenshots of various financial accounts that reflected inflated account balances.

One of those screenshots reportedly reflected a balance of over $16,000, when the balance was actually less than $7.

Officials said a significant portion of investors’ money was used to pay excessive salaries and other compensation to D&T employees, including members of Page’s family.

Several employees had annual salaries of over $100,000, prosecutors said. Page would also reportedly pay employees several thousand dollars each for getting the company logo tattooed on their bodies.

Page and Teague are also accused of using the victims’ money to pay for clothing, jewelry, travel, luxury car rentals and to make cash withdrawals.

On December 2, 2021, the men traveled to Italy and informed employees that they were closing the company.

Both were arrested on New Year’s Eve at JFK Airport when they returned to the U.S.

On Wednesday, Page pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Teague pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Both men were released on bond with home detention and location monitoring after the plea hearings.