Charlotte reporter and NMG member Mitch Weiss has won AP’s Best of States award for going beyond what was already a big story in North Carolina to uncover the true scope of a Ponzi scheme.
Weiss used his savvy and investigative skills to pull together an authoritative tale of a website called ZeekRewards at the heart of the $600 million Ponzi scheme based in Lexington, N.C. The website offered unwary investors shares in the profits of a penny auction company that was a sister company _ if they helped promote the business and recruit other investors.
Weiss combed through federal and state records, company emails and consumer complaints, as well as interviewing numerous sources. Those include the ZeekRewards founder, who blamed the investors for their losses.
The scheme, which cheated thousands of cash-strapped people, has since been shut down by regulators. But Weiss showed they had let people keep investing in ZeekRewards, even after getting complaints for months that it was a Ponzi scheme.