Hemp investor agrees to plead guilty to federal charges in investment scheme

An Indianapolis businessman plans to plead guilty to running a fraudulent investment scheme and improperly using $4 million to bankroll hemp companies.

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that George S. Blankenbaker Jr., 54, had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of federal wire fraud and one count of money laundering, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Blankenbaker, the president of Indianapolis’ Stevia Corp., conducted “a Ponzi and money laundering scheme” from 2016 to 2019 through three companies, prosecutors said.

Blankenbaker raised more than $11 million from at least 109 investorss, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said.

The SEC said Blankenbaker and his companies allegedly “falsely told investors that their money would be used to make short-term loans to food exporters in Asia.”

But the SEC said Blankenbaker misused at least $8.1 million of those investments and sent at least $4 million to unspecified hemp companies.

Investigators said Blankenbaker “also used at least $965,000 in new investor funds to make Ponzi-style payments to prior investors.”

The scheme ended up costing 34 investors nearly $1.5 million, prosecutors said.