State securities officials are investigating a scheme they say may have funneled as much as $160 million from investors in 34 states to bank accounts in Latvia.

The scheme promised exorbitant returns for small investments, said Tony Taggart, director of the Utah Securities Division.So far, the securities division and Salt Lake County Attorney's Office have charged Utah residents Richard A. Forester, Alfred Blair and Don Bolieau and Chattanooga, Tenn., resident Timothy Lee McCormick with securities fraud and selling unregistered securities issued by Castlerock Investment Group/IFR Trust.

McCormick, 40, was the owner of Castlerock/IFR, based in Hamilton County, Tenn. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Nov. 30 before 3rd District Judge Leon Dever.

Investigators say others may be charged. "We know of at least 21 people who made sales in Utah," Taggart said.

Forester, 54, recently pleaded guilty to one count of the unlawful sale of unregistered securities. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 3 before Judge J. Dennis Frederick.

Securities division investigators began looking into the scheme in early August after someone gave them sales literature, Taggart said.

Nationwide, at least 150 investors were involved and many invested "substantial amounts," said Janet Kleinfelter, senior counsel with the Tennessee Attorney General's Office.

"The investors ran the gamut," Kleinfelter said.

The securities division in Utah so far knows of 92 Utah residents who invested about $1.3 million.

Castlerock/IFR promised investors that a $5,000 initial investment would return $1 million in 41/2 years. A $50,000 investment would return $50 million. Investor funds were peddled as being protected by an insurance company.

Another of its programs promised investors they could earn a return of 25 percent every 40 days, said Michael Hines, director of enforcement at the securities division.

"It was ridiculous," Hines said, noting a $5,000 investment would have returned $2.8 billion after 61/2 years.

At the securities division's request, regulators in Tennessee filed a lawsuit against Castlerock/ IFR in September and froze bank accounts that contained around $1.2 million, Kleinfelter said.

Kleinfelter said a receiver was appointed to take over the company in late October.

"The receiver will be looking to see if there is any other money or assets out there that can be used to repay investors," Kleinfelter said.

It is not known who had been funneling money into bank accounts in Lativa. The FBI is investigating that part of the scam, said Taggart.

"We just know that a lot of the money has gone to an account in that country," said Taggart. "The problem with a lot of these frauds is once the money gets offshore, there's not a lot we can do about it."