Business

Kansas City businessman led a $10 million investment fraud scheme, feds say

Authorities searched the Northland home of Mark Sellers after he committed suicide during a police chase Aug. 2.
Authorities searched the Northland home of Mark Sellers after he committed suicide during a police chase Aug. 2. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Before killing himself after a brief police chase last year, Kansas City businessman Mark Sellers led a $10 million investment fraud scheme to fund his extravagant lifestyle, according to a federal court filing unsealed Friday.

Federal prosecutors in Kansas City unsealed a forfeiture request to seize Sellers’ Northland house, a 2014 Porsche 911 and five separate life insurance policies with a cumulative death benefit of $6 million, all of which investigators believe were ill-gotten gains from the fraud scheme.

Authorities also believe that once Sellers spent all his investors’ money, he turned to maxing out eight different credits cards in what’s referred to as a “bust out” scheme.

Sellers, 64, shot himself on the morning of Aug. 2 when he discovered federal agents and Kansas City Police Department officers trying to serve a search warrant at his residence at at the 6000 block of North Cosby Court in the Platte County portion of Kansas City.

FBI agents had obtained a search warrant the day before from a federal magistrate judge. Sellers wasn’t home when the agents showed up at his door, but he sped away from the authorities in a Ford Explorer when he spotted them blocking off an intersection near his home.

Police pursued Sellers briefly before Sellers stopped the car and shot himself in the head with a revolver. He later died at St. Luke’s North.

A Kansas City, North, man shot himself Tuesday morning Aug. 2, 2016, as agents searched his home, the same home where a woman was found shot to death last month. When the homeowner arrived and saw law enforcement officials, he drove away and shot

Just weeks before, police were called to Sellers’ house where they found his wife, Sandra Sellers, shot dead in the couple’s bedroom with Sellers lying next to her from an apparent attempt to overdose on medication. The 8,800-square-foot house with four bedrooms and seven bathrooms has been listed for sale since Jan. 1 with a $699,000 asking price. That’s down from $1.295 million from before their death.

It amounted to bizarre deaths for a couple whom neighbors at the time described as private and, at times, obstinate. Neighbors recalled that the Sellerses were not often home, but did frequently see contractors working on home improvement projects.

A business associate described Mark Sellers this way: “He was always a pretty private person, even when we were working together closely. We weren’t out talking shop over a bottle of wine, over dinner, playing golf — there was none of that. It was all business-oriented, and he was good at what he did.”

Soon after Sellers’ death, indications emerged that the businessman may have defrauded investors through a company he ran called Selden Companies.

Federal investigators now say that Selden Companies raised nearly $10 million from investors since December 2007 with Sellers holding himself out as a businessman who could buy struggling businesses, get their affairs in order and sell them for a profit.

But of that $10 million he raised, he returned little more than $200,000 to his investors while spending most of the rest on jewelry, home remodeling and improvement projects, and luxury automobiles, among other things.

The Selden Companies scheme affected 100 investors in Kansas City and elsewhere, some of whom had made their investments from retirement savings, according to Friday’s filing.

Prior to starting Selden Companies, Sellers had purchased Flo Healthcare, a company that made medical carts for hospitals, sometime in the early 2000s. When Sellers sold Flo in 2007, his investors at the time earned a return for their investment, with some later rolling those returns into Selden Companies.

Selden purchased a company called Global Cable and Electronics in Lawrenceville, Ga. For years, Sellers would send investors updates about Global Cable’s business to give the impression that the investment was working out well.

Investigators believe Sellers spent all of his investor proceeds sometime in either 2014 and 2015, at which point he turned to credit card fraud.

In what authorities refer to as a “bust out scheme,” Sellers opened credit cards with JP Morgan Chase. He would run up large balances, increase the credit limit and then make automated clearing-house payments with bank accounts that didn’t have enough money. Sellers would use the time between the payment request and processing — a period of time referred to in the banking industry as the “float” — to make additional purchases.

Authorities say Sellers did this with eight different credit cards.

Friday’s filing gives a sense that Sellers knew his scheme was coming apart in the weeks leading up to his death.

According to the forfeiture request, Sellers encountered an investor who had become aware that his scheme was unraveling. That investor suggested that he apply for Social Security benefits. Authorities say Sellers never received Social Security payments or pension payouts from former employers.

That unnamed investor told investigators that Sellers was asking family members for money and to cover his bills.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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