Troy David Stratos, a/k/a Troy
David Stafford , Troy David, and most recently David Burton International Con Artist, and "wannabe"
Bill E. Branscum
Troy David Stratos, also known as Troy David Stafford,
Troy David, and most recently using the name David Burton, was born April 13, 1966. I would have to say, he was the most interesting case I have been involved in, and talented and resourceful beyond all belief. By the time this case was over, the government established that he had, in fact, "worked an honest day in his life," contrary to my expectations, but the honest days ended in 1993. From that time forward, by the time he was twenty-eight years old, he redirected his remarkable talents to orchestrating and perpetrating one fraud scheme after another, many of them extraordinarily elaborate, netting him something more than forty-three million dollars ($43,000,000).
I was originally retained in 2008, by Attorney Robert G. Bernhoft, an attorney representing the interests of Nicole Murphy.
The witnesses interviewed painted a pitiful
picture of an intelligent, charismatic, but terribly conflicted
individual, described by a former boyfriend as being a "black,
homosexual, racist, homophobe." Stratos reportedly describes
himself as a bastard child rejected by his mother, one of a pair
of twins, who managed to survive the abortion that successfully
terminated his unborn sibling (he was born in 66 - abortions didn't
become legal until 1973). He consistently represents himself to
be a billionaire, reporting that he made his fortune by investing
in "ground floor" America Online (AOL), and then parlayed
the fortune he earned into a vast financial empire by investing
in oil through contacts with the members of various royal families
in the Middle East.
Stratos masquerades variously as a producer, entrepreneur,
real estate developer . . . whatever sounds good in furtherance
of his current scheme to defraud. Apparently, his favorite scheme
is to defraud real estate sales people of their time as a ruse to
mingle with the very rich. He consistently represents himself to be a billionaire
shopping for extremely high-end properties, having worn out his
welcome with real estate sales offices in Las Vegas, Florida, California,
Hawaii, the United Kingdom and Dubai. One witness reports that he
was actually black listed by the real estate board in Vancouver,
We have had inquiries, and interviewed witnesses,
from all over the world. In an effort to entice potential investors,
Stratos is reported to have promoted himself as, among other things:
> the Producer of "Plantation," described
as a TV series patterned after "Dallas," but set in
> the Producer of "18D" a movie to be filmed in Cairo,
or Dubai; and
> the Producer of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Athens,
> the Producer of a "Michael Jackson 50th
Birthday Extravaganza" in Dubai; and
> the Producer of a "Michael Jackson 50th Birthday Extravaganza"
in Beijing; and
> the Producer of jazz singer Nancy Wilson's
"come back" in Hawaii; and
> the Producer of disco performer Donna Summer's "come
back" in New York; and
> the Developer building a film studio in Boston; and
> the Developer building a film studio in Cape
> the Developer building a film studio in Fort
> the Mastermind behind "O-TOO," fresh
air systems . . . that's right, this guy proposes to sell "air"
It should be noted that every witness agrees that this guy has never
really produced anything, but his credibility is bolstered by the various credible people, many of whom are celebrities, with whom he surrounds himself.
Whatever else Troy David Stratos is, he is an accomplished
con artist, described by some as a, "guy who could sell
you your own car and make you think you got a good deal."
Thus far, we have identified several victims who have collectively
been defrauded of in excess of thirty million dollars over the last
ten years, as evidenced by the following:
2009 Update: Stratos was arrested
in Paris on Monday, August 31, 2009.
The details are not all in at this time but Stratos,
using the alias David Burton, is reported to have defrauded numerous
individuals in Paris, London, Italy, and Dubai. At this writing,
he is currently incarcerated in Paris. The French Serious Fraud
Office, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Scotland Yard, and the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, are reported to be investigating
cases within their respective jurisdictions.
We do know that Gary Peters, and Richard Bellanger,
were dealing with the man they knew as David Burton in Paris, when
they began to suspect that he was a fraud. Stratos was in Paris
representing himself to be a billionaire real estate investor, Producer,
and Filmmaker, in trying to raise $50,000,000 for the Michael Jackson
tribute concert he was promoting. As we have reported before, Stratos'
connection to Michael Jackson is pure fiction.
Peters and Bellanger determined who Stratos really
was after they "set him up" to be arrested by Paris police.
They report that, after his arrest at the Radisson Hotel in Paris,
they found twenty-eight (28) credit cards, fifteen (15) mobile telephones,
his passport and his Florida Drivers License. Law enforcement authorities
also seized his laptop computer.
By all appearances, Stratos finally attempted to defraud
the wrong guys.
Stratos is currently being held pending a remand hearing
scheduled for Monday, September 7, 2009, in Paris. Sources in Paris
are concerned that he might be released pending
Further information will be posted here as it becomes
2009 UPDATE: Stratos was Remanded
to La Santé Prison on Monday, September 7, 2009.
I flew to Paris on Saturday, September 5, 2009, at
the direction of my Client to provide any evidence,
information and/or testimony that local authorities might require.
Upon arrival, I connected with Gary Peters, and Richard Bellanger.
They, along with Richard Bellanger's wife who is an attorney, were
of indefatigable support and assistance to me throughout my week-long
On Monday, September 7, 2009, I met with Ms. Brac
De La Perriere, the Commissar, French Police. Although I am not
sure it is much of a compliment, I was very surprised to find that
her command of the English language was better than my own. With
her assistance, my testimony was provided to the Court in the form
of the Declaration appended below, and the Honorable Judge Caddeo
remanded Stratos to the custody of La Santé Prison.
My testimony, outlining the information developed during my investigation, is available below.
NOTE: At the time I prepared the above referenced Declaration, I had neither met, nor interviewed Richard Hack. At this point, I've done both. In an effort to respond to the allegations leveled against him, Richard Hack drafted a document entitled, Richard Hack's Story, and published it on the Internet, so I republish it here.
Those who have been victimized by this individual
are encouraged to Google Search, "La Santé Prison."
I believe that you will find that French authorities have put Troy
Stratos exactly where he needs to be. It is generally reported to be one of the worst places to be incarcerated in the civilized world.
At this point, my investigative involvement in this case was complete.
2010 Update: Lawsuit Filed, US District Court
On September 17, 2010, Attorneys representing Nicole Murphy filed suit against Stratos, et al, in the United States District Court, Central District of California.
In October 2011, I received a phone call from Troy Stratos which, as one might imagine, was something of a surprise to me. He identified himself and told me that he wanted to thank me for my involvement in his situation in Paris, as his experience with La Santé Prison was the "wake up call" that turned his life around. He further advised me that he had become extremely successful in the advertising business, and was working to make restitution to the people he had victimized. Stratos reported that he had compensated several of the victims I had identified during the course of my investigation, but although he had the readily available funds to do more, he had two problems; specifically, he was having trouble locating many of them, and some of those he did locate refused to believe that he was actually trying to settle their issues. Stratos asked if he could retain me to help him in that regard.
Frankly, his story made sense to me, as a couple of the victims had contacted me, incredulous that they had actually been paid, and a guy with the demonstrated ability to convince whomever he chose to believe whatever he told them ... how could he not be extremely successful in the world of advertising. Nevertheless, I declined to work for him; instead, I told him that if the attorneys working on his behalf needed help locating victims, I would be willing to work with them.
Subsequently, I was contacted by a highly reputable law firm, who flew me to Los Angeles where I was met by a driver who took me to the law firm's offices on the Avenue of the Stars, where I had a meeting with more lawyers and support staff than have ever been present at any meeting I have attended. They reiterated the story as related to me by Stratos, with the addition of some other concerns to the effect that Stratos was the target of an extortionate scheme perpetrated by an individual they wanted to know more about. In response to my express concerns, the attorney who represented himself as Stratos' criminal defense attorney advised me that he had met with the FBI, and their investigation concluded that the complaints against Stratos were a civil matter, and the attorney managing Stratos' efforts to make financial reparations assured me that they had thoroughly vetted the source and origin of his funds. I agreed to assist as requested, with the understanding that I would do nothing that in any way could be construed as conflicting with the interests of my former client.
Following the meeting. I was advised that the plans to check me into the Los Angeles hotel they had arranged for me, were changed. Instead, the limousine driver took me to the airport, where Stratos had a Lear Jet fly me to Las Vegas, as the only passenger on the plane. When we arrived, I was met by another limousine driver who delivered me to one of Las Vegas most prestigious hotels, where I was whisked through VIP Services, and ushered to a VIP suite with every amenity known to man.
When I first met Troy Stratos later that evening, he was perfectly cordial, and introduced me to the various members of his entourage. He indicated that he thought it best the we meet in person, that he might answer any questions I could have. The only question I had related to the source an origin of the funds. Stratos subsequently took me to the studio that produced his advertisements - a well established, reputable, professional facility where he directed the staff to show me some of the commercials that he had created. While I was not particularly impressed by Troy Stratos, I was very impressed by his commercials. I found it easy to believe his representation that they were to be aired during the upcoming Super Bowl ... I thought them to be every bit that good.
I actually did very little for Troy Stratos, and nothing of any particular consequence. Unbeknownst to either of us, he had very little time and, in retrospect, it is clear that his true motive and agenda was to be able to say I was working for him, as evidence that I had reversed my position that he was a con artist and a fraud.
At the time, I had no idea that I had been deceived, the whole thing was part and parcel of Stratos most elaborate scam to date, and the "thoroughly vetted" funds that Stratos was using to satisfy complaints, and finance his ridiculously expensive lifestyle, were derived of fraud. Stratos had not become successful in advertising - he had not, in fact, made an honest dime. Fortunately, unlike the law firms and lawyers involved, nobody ever alleged that I knew, or should have known, what was going on, and it didn't cost me anything.
Final Chapters: The Rest of the Story
In 2011, Stratos found it very difficult to operate due to his widespread exposure on the Internet. According to his testimony during the course of his Detention Hearing, he was unable to open any accounts at any financial institutions, domestically or internationally. Their compliance departments simply Googled his name, and closed his accounts. He got around that, and it will be abundantly clear how, but I'm not going to make any statements regarding lawyers and law firms that could be construed to be defamatory.
It was an incredibly complicated scheme to defraud, the elements of which I will try to explain as succinctly as I can.
1) Troy Stratos adopted the identity of his step-brother, Kenneth Dennis ... it should be noted that, other than having his name hijacked, the real Kenneth Dennis had nothing to do with any of this.
2) Amid rumors that Face Book was going to "go public," investors were frantic to buy huge blocks of privately held stock that were very difficult to acquire. One such potential buyer, a broker representing a consortium of investors was Timothy Burns, doing business as ESG Capital Partners.
3) Burns was introduced to Ken Dennis (Stratos) as the representative of Carlos Slim, a well known mega billionaire, widely reported to be the wealthiest man in the world.
4) Ken Dennis (Stratos) was doing business as Soumaya Securities and, as is widely known, Soumaya was the name of Carlos Slim's late wife, and Carlos Slim often uses her name related to various philanthropic undertakings in which he is involved. The point being, Burns knew who Carlos Slim is, and the significance of the name, Soumaya.
5) In dealing with Burns, the person he knew as Ken Dennis was represented by a law firm, the same firm that has represented Troy Stratos related to fraud allegations.
6) Burns was led to believe that 20 million FB shares were available through Ken Dennis, doing business as Soumaya Securities, on behalf of Carlos Slim, at $27 dollars a share, given an advance of $11,250,000. Based upon the law firm's assurance that the funds would be refundable, the following funds were transferred to Soumaya Securities, in at least one case passing through the law firm's account: April 19, 2011, $2,800,000; July 12, 2011, $7,200,000; August 15, 2011, $1,250,000 ... $11,250,000.
At the risk of getting ahead of myself, Timothy Burns had some fraud related issues of his own. Although chronologically out of order, I think the reader will be best served by knowing exactly what Stratos was doing, and how the whole thing was set up. For those who may not know, an Information serves much like an Indictment, and the Appeal is the document Burns filed as an explanation in support of his petition to reduce his 60 month sentence.
Troy Stratos' arrest for defrauding Nicole Murphy precipitated the complaint to the Department of Justice that exposed Troy Stratos' ongoing scheme to defraud, and gave rise to allegations of misconduct and complicity on the part of attorneys and law firms involved.
On December 20, 2011, I received a phone call from a virtually hysterical Troy Stratos who was hiding in his bathroom, with the FBI banging on his front door. I cannot imagine why he called me, or why he would ask me what to do ... I gave him the benefit of my very best professional advice, "Open your door before they do" and hung up.
On January 11, 2012, Stratos was Arraigned before the Honorable Edmund F. Brennan, United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Stratos was represented by an attorney who stood in for Stratos' attorney, Walter Urban, who was not able to be present that day. Judge Brennan informed Stratos of the charges against him, and the potential consequences but delayed Stratos plea until a continuation the following day. According to the Minutes of the continuation of the hearing as published as Item 14 on the Docket, Stratos pleaded Not Guilty and demanded a jury trial. The Initial Appearance transcript and a copy of the Docket are available below.
On January 13, 2012, Troy Stratos having been held without bond to that point, a Detention Hearing was held, the Honorable Edmund F. Brennan presiding. The Detention Hearing was continued until January 23, 2012 and that Transcript is available below.
This Transcript of the continuation of the Detention Hearing, at 194 pages, may well be more than anyone wants to read, but the transcript demonstrates a proclivity I have seen over and over again ... like a professional boxer who would like nothing better than to settle all his problems with his fists in a parking lot, these arrogant, narcissistic con artists rarely pass up an opportunity to talk ... that's what they do best. Against the advice of his attorney, Stratos testified at length on his own behalf, thereby subjecting himself to cross examination. Those who have an interest in these things may find this transcript to be as fascinating as I did.
It is a fascinating transcript, but it was annoying to see that he misrepresented to the Court that he was prepared to offer my testimony as some sort of Troy Stratos convert. The government began investigating Troy Stratos in 2007, a year before I did, and I had provided the information I developed to the FBI as I developed it. I was on the government witness list for both cases that followed. I suppose it should go without saying, but Stratos' representation that I took it upon myself to offer Nicole Murphy $500,000 to settle her claim against Stratos is preposterous ... this sociopathic con artist stole something in excess of $11,000,000 from her.
As evidenced by the transcript of the proceeding, Stratos made what I am sure he believed to be an eloquent plea for his pre trial release ... he certainly was articulate ... no doubt believing himself to be the smartest person in the room. While I have no doubt that neither AUSA Todd Pickles, or the FBI Case Agent, Special Agent Chris Phillips, could begin to create the sort of grandiose fantasy fraud scheme that Stratos can conjure up in his head, theirs is a world of painstaking, methodical, prosecution, where all the I's are dotted, and all the T's are crossed. The record reflects that they focused the full force of the federal tools available to them on putting an end to Troy Stratos, and they thwarted him decisively at every turn.
At this Detention Hearing, Stratos had the temerity to argue that he should be released so he could pursue his ongoing fraud scheme, portraying it as a legitimate business deal upon which many innocent people were depending. Stratos went on and on about the Face Book deal he was about to consummate, a deal so big that his "commission" would be something in excess of twenty million dollars ... and every word of it was an outright lie. The government made it clear that this "legitimate business deal" was just another elaborate con that had already netted him the $11,250,000 which he had used to make restitution to some of his previous victims, and fund his extravagant lifestyle ... that was the source and origin of all the money he had been throwing around. The government also made it clear that incarceration did not stop him ... with the collusion of various third parties, he attempted to perpetuate and maintain control of the scheme from jail.
Unbeknownst to Stratos when he testified, the law firm Burns had been dealing with had already thrown Stratos, and the attorney Stratos was working with, under the government bus. According to Burns' subsequent testimony, on December 27, 2011, the law firm informed Burns that, "Ken Dennis was actually Troy Stratos who had been arrested on suspicion of fraud against Nicole Murphy." Burns reported that he immediately researched the case and contacted Todd Pickles, the Assistant US Attorney handling the case. AUSA Pickles, the prosecutor Stratos was lying to at his Detention Hearing, was well aware of the facts as alleged by Timothy Burns at the time. See Timothy Burns Appeal as provided above, at page 4.
Imagine the unlimited audacity of this guy... to try to con the Court to release him pending trial based upon his need to be free to pursue what was actually his most elaborate con ever - the scheme to defraud that formed the basis for the Superseding Indictment that was coming! For Stratos, his Detention Hearing was a truly spectacular crash and burn.
On May 23, 2013, the government filed a Superseding Indictment.
On May 19, 2015, Troy Stratos was found guilty as to Counts 12, 13, 14, 15, 18 and 19 of the Superseding Indictment.; specifically, four counts of Wire Fraud and two counts of Money Laundering. The remaining counts were to be tried separately.
On January 14, 2016, the Honorable Troy L. Nunley, United States District Judge, signed an Order of Forfeiture, related to three vehicles belonging to Stratos; a 2011 Land Rover Range Rover, a 2011Chevrolet Camaro, and a second 2011 Chevrolet Camaro.
On May 31, 2016, almost a year to the day after the partial, unfavorable, jury verdict, according to the docket entry on that date, Troy Stratos finally gave up and pleaded guilty to all remaining counts. On December 12, 2016, one week less than five years after he was arrested, the Honorable Troy L. Nunley, United States District Judge, sentenced Stratos to serve 262 months, with three years supervised release to follow. As previously stated, the government argued for a sentence of thirty years.
For those who my not understand the United States Sentencing Guidelines, you should be aware that the federal system has no provision for parole ... in other words, you cannot be sentenced to twenty years and be out in three for good behavior. Under the federal system, you must serve no less than eighty-five percent (85%) of your sentence. Those familiar with the system will note that there was no Plea Agreement ... the government made no deals with Troy Stratos.
On November 28, 2016, Sgt. Dennis Prizmich, Sacramento Sheriff's Office, Sacramento County Jail executed a Declaration that describes Stratos' activities while incarcerated, and further describes the "Ellen Dove Project," a $32,000,000 real estate transaction he conceived and pursued while in jail.