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Federal indictment reveals new details — and a possible accomplice — in faux-billionaire’s fraud case

In this July 8, 2015,  photo, people view the Seattle skyline from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. A fraud case against a Canadian man who posed as a British billionaire reveals new details Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (Jordan Stead / Associated Press)
In this July 8, 2015, photo, people view the Seattle skyline from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. A fraud case against a Canadian man who posed as a British billionaire reveals new details Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (Jordan Stead / Associated Press)
By Paul Roberts Seattle Times

A federal indictment reveals telling new details in the fraud case against Keenan Alexander Gracey, a one-time Newcastle resident who posed as a British billionaire and bilked Washington and California investors out of $5.5 million.

Among the new information in Thursday’s indictment: evidence that the high-rolling, Lamborghini-driving impostor had brazenly launched a second fraud scheme even as federal authorities were closing in on his first – and that he was wooing new victims as late as Dec. 7, just 13 days before federal agents arrested him outside a Los Angeles County courthouse.

Thursday’s eight-page federal indictment also alleges that Gracey, who eventually will be transported back to Seattle, may have been abetted by a local family member.

The arrest and indictment follow monthslong investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that uncovered two elaborate, audacious schemes that defrauded at least two dozen investors.

In the first scheme, which began in mid-2016, Gracey assumed the role of an Oxford-educated British billionaire with inside knowledge of lucrative stock deals, according to federal complaints. Gracey’s victims, who were drawn from Washington and California, were promised the chance to buy soon-to-be-public company shares at a massive discount.

To bolster his tale, Gracey created a convincing illusion of a highly successful investor. He rented Ferraris and Lamborghinis and leased mansions in the Lake Washington community of Clyde Hill, and in Beverly Hills and San Diego. He rented out VIP rooms in high-end restaurants for investor events. He spoke in an affected British accent, according to at least one account, and used several aliases, including Xander Gracey and Xander Keenan, according to Thursday’s indictment.

Gracey also claimed to be a professional athlete. He “told us he was trying out for the Seahawks,” recalls a former Seattle-area car broker who dealt with Gracey multiple times in 2016 and who described him as muscular and unusually tall. “It looked like he was walking on stilts.”

Ultimately, investors gave Gracey more than $3.5 million, much of it wired to his account at the Newcastle branch of Wells Fargo, according to the indictment.

But as investors eventually learned, the shares did not exist. Also, Gracey was Canadian, not British, and he hailed not from tony communities like Beverly Hills (where “most of my neighbors are billionaires,” as he told one victim) but Newcastle, a former coal-mining town on the Eastside with a median household income of around $80,000. His only real claim to fame was a stint in the youth program of the Canadian national soccer team.

Gracey’s scam began to crumble last May when the public stock offering he had promised investors failed to take place, and several of his victims alerted the SEC.

Yet even after the SEC had obtained a temporary restraining order against Gracey last May for his first scheme, Gracey did not stop, federal documents show. Instead, he created a second scheme, involving yet another phony stock offering, that yielded an additional $2 million in ill-gotten gains, according to the indictment.

The second scheme continued until Dec. 7, according to the indictment. That was barely two weeks before FBI agents arrested Gracey as he emerged from a Los Angeles County court hearing for a July 8 arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Thursday’s indictment also alleges that during the second scheme, Gracey tried to hide his transactions by “directing the victims to wire the funds to bank accounts in the name of a relative of Gracey (referenced hereafter as ‘Person 1’).”

The indictment does not identify Person 1.

Gracey will likely stand trial in Seattle, where a federal court has just over two months to set a trial date.

In the meantime, news of Gracey’s arrest has already provoked wry reminiscences among Seattle-area people who met Gracey during his alleged two-year fraud spree.

“You encounter a lot of characters in the luxury-car business,” recalled the former car broker. “But he takes the cake.”

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