Ponzi Scam Receiver Can Go Forward with Securities Claim Against Texas Investor Who Benefited From the Fraud

According to the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, R. Wayne Klein, the receiver of a Ponzi scam involving Winsome Investment Trust and US Ventures can go ahead with his claims to get back money from an investor who received more than she had invested. Judge Dale A. Kimball rejected Houston restaurateur and caterer Nina Abdulbaki’s claims that the fraudulent transfer claims of the receiver were not timely and that she isn’t subject to personal jurisdiction in the district.

Per the court, Winsome sent nearly $25 million to US Ventures, which allegedly bilked investors while claiming to be involved in commodity trading. Robert Andres, who ran Winsome Investment Trust, is accused of soliciting Abdulbaki for money to take part in a commodity futures pool.

She put $65,000 into Winsome and between 6/31/07 and 3/28/08 she received payments of $92,250. However, the court says that during the time that Abdulbaki was paid this amount, Winsome was not solvent because it was being run as a Ponzi scam.

Finding no merit to her claims that she isn’t subject to personal jurisdiction, the court said that federal receiver statutes allow for “nationwide service of process for in personam as well as in rem jurisdiction.” It also found that Abdulbaki’s statute of limitations defense does not succeed on a number of grounds, including that for this case equitable tolling is allowed under the doctrine of adverse domination. Per the doctrine, the statute of limitations for an entity’s claim is tolled when the entity is dominated and controlled by individuals taking part in behavior that harms it. The court found that the doctrine applies to this case because Andres had sole control of Winsome until the receiver’s appointment removed him. Therefore, says the court, the statute of limitations was tolled until the appointment of the receiver and his claims are, as a result, timely. (Before Klein’s appointment, receivership entities would not have been able to avail of their legal rights.)

Commenting on the court’s decision, Texas securities lawyer William Shepherd said, “The claw-backs system used in these cases is grossly unfair and treats fraud victims as if they were perpetrators! Money received years ago has been spent on necessities, invested into homes, businesses, or used to pay taxes or make donations. Un-ringing such bells can be very harsh! Innocent persons often receive benefits from others’ wrongdoing. While others die, many who use drugs with unknown dangers receive benefits. Resort owners profit from lavish events to entertain government employees. Crooks pay top dollar for homes and cars and tip excessively. The list of innocent persons who benefit from crimes is very long. At the very least, those who benefit from Ponzi schemes should be allowed to retain the interest they would have earned or profits they could have made if their funds had been properly invested.”

Klein v. Abdulbaki, D. Utah, No. 2:11-CV-0095

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