Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement

 SEC Charges Hawaii-Based Investment Adviser for Misleading Clients and Cherry Picking
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Oracle Investment Research, which is based in Hawaii, and its owner Laurence I. Balter. The regulator claims that the investment adviser cherry picked trades that were profitable for his own accounts. He is also accused is  misleading clients, including senior citizens, about the risks involved in the investments he recommended, as well as about the fees they would be charged.
According to the SEC Enforcement Division, Balter and Oracle Investment Research bought options and equities in an omnibus account but waited to distribute the trades until their execution. Then, he would allegedly move the profitable trades into his accounts and the unprofitable ones to the accounts of clients. 

Sethi Petroleum Inc. and its founder Sameer P. Sethi are asking a federal judge to send the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case against it to trial. Sethi Petroleum is based in Dallas, Texas.  The regulator had sought summary judgment in the Texas lawsuit, which accuses Sethi Petroleum and Sethi of fraudulently selling securities to investors for a drilling project in Montana and the Dakotas.  However, the two of them claim that a jury needs to decide whether the interests that investors are holding are even securities.

The Commission claims that Sethi raised over $4M in a little over a year for the oil venture with the promise of 20 gas and oil wells. 90 investors in nearly 30 states were promised 62.5% net working interest on these wells. They were purportedly told that wells were already making 1 million barrels/month, when Sethi Petroleum actually only held interests in just eight wells—and not all of them were being drilled—in which investors held only .15 to 2.5% interest. These wells produced far less than the 1 million barrels/month touted, claims the regulator. The actual figure was closer to 9,000 to almost 14,000 barrels/month.

The SEC claims that Sethi invested just $950K of investor funds in the wells, while he used $577K to pay himself and his dad. $1.1M of investor funds purportedly went to employees at Sethi Financial Group, with sales employees getting $1.04M. Seth  is accused of lying about his own record of regulatory and criminal violations and his company is accused of lying when it claimed that it was working with Hess Corp. and Mobil Corp.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has put out an emergency asset freeze against Peter Kohli, a former broker. According to the regulator, the Pennsylvania resident bilked at least 120 investors when he fraudulently raised over $3.2M from them between 2012 and 2015. The regulator attributes the funds collapse to the ex-broker’s “extreme recklessness.”

At the time, Kohli was CEO and president of DMS Advisors, a dually-registered investment adviser and brokerage firm. He began the DMS Funds series, comprised of four emerging market mutual funds, in 2012. The SEC claims that he overstated the funds’  level of sophistication while disregarding the risk that he and DMS Advisors might not be able to cover certain expenses.

The Commission claims  that Kohli stole money from investors as the funds became beleaguered and he committed three other frauds to keep his scam going.  He also purportedly misappropriated money he solicited to invest in one of the funds and his accused of drawing in two kinds of investments in Marshad Capital Group, which was DMS advisors’ holding company.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against three men accusing them of defrauding investors in a project that was supposed to build the largest movie studio on the continent in Georgia. They are: Matthew T. Mellon, Manu Kumaran, and Roger Miguel.

According to the regulator, Kumaran, the ex-chairman, CEO and founder of movie production company Moon River Studios, previously called Medient Studios, and his CEO successor Jake Shapiro issued misleading and false statements in corporate filings and press releases. Among their alleged claims is that construction was already happening and there were already projected dates for when the studio would be running even though the two men knew that they didn’t have the money to start building the “Studioplex.”

The two men and Roger Miguel, who was the CEO of Fonu2, are accused falsifying and backdating promissory notes in a scam to put out common stock in return for financing. Fonu2 operated under Moon River Services,  Even though the movie studio never became a reality the three men allegedly became rich because of their scam. For example, Shapiro is accused of misappropriating company money for his own spending, including a nearly million-dollar home, and Kumaran allegedl spent about $1700 of company money daily for his travels and personal spending.

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Three years after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission barred Ray Lucia Sr. from the securities industry, the ex-investment adviser and radio talk show host is still seeking to overturn that decision. Last week, he filed a petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to hear his case again.

It was just last August that the appeals court heard his petition but refused to review and vacate the SEC ruling. His latest petition was submitted en banc, which could allow all 11 members of the appeals court to refuse to hear the case or decide to do so and issue a vote.

Lucia, who once touted a “buckets of money” investment strategy for retirement was barred after an SEC administrative law judge found that the ex-investment adviser misled investors about the strategy’s approach to growing retirement assets. According to the regulator, the inflation rates Lucia employed to “back-test” his strategy failed to factor in the historical inflation rates during the time periods that were supposedly relevant.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging ex-Samoyedic’s Inc. and Fun Cool Free Inc. founder Craig V. Sizer and boiler room operator Miguel Mesa with involvement in a $20M penny stock scam to bilk senior investors and others. At least 600 investors were allegedly victimized in the fraud. The two men have consented to partial settlements of the civil charges accusing them of violating broker-dealer registration and anti-fraud provision of federal securities laws. However, they are not admitting to or denying the claims. 
According to the Commission, Sizer hired Mesa to draw in and bilk investors in both his companies. Mesa ran boiler rooms in California and Florida. Sizer gave Mesa pitch points for boiler room agents to use when selling stock shares.  The points included alleged misrepresentations, including that investor money would go toward development and research but not toward commissions. Sizer also purportedly solicited investors by phone using the same misrepresentations and omissions to sell company shares.
Unfortunately, contends the regulator, the two men misappropriated about 90% of the money raised for their own enrichment and to pay the agents their sales commissions of 15-20%.  Sizer is accused of using at least $3M on his own spending.

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Florida Man Implicated in Scam Involving Black Check Companies’ Stocks
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil fraud charges against Sheldon R. Rose. The Florida man established over a dozen blank check companies, which the SEC contends are worthless and have no operations despite that they are registered to sell stock. 
According to the regulator, Rose appointed relatives and friends as figurehead officers and shareholders but concealed that he was the one controlling the entities and their securities. Although corporate filings made it seem as if the companies were legitimate startups, the SEC contends that this was only so that reverse mergers could be conducted, the  securities could be sold, and Rose and others could profit illicitly.
In addition to settling the civil charges, Rose is barred from engaging in penny stock offerings in the future or working as a director/officer of a public company. He also faces criminal charges. 
Rose’s civil case is connected to the one that the  SEC filed last year against 10 individuals in a penny stock scam involving blank check companies headed for reverse mergers. 

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NASAA Puts Out Practices and Procedures Guide to Protect Vulnerable Adults

The North American Securities Administrators Association has issued a guide to help investment advisory firms and broker-dealers create procedures and practices to help them identify and tackle suspected incidents of financial exploitation involving vulnerable adult clients, including senior investors and adults with diminished capacity. The guide provides steps that revolve around five key concepts:

  • Identifying who is a vulnerable individual
  • Governmental reporting
  • Third-party reporting
  • Delaying disbursement from the account of a client who is a vulnerable adult
  • Ongoing regulator cooperation when a disbursement is delayed or a report of suspected financial exploitation is made.

It was just recently that NASAA put into effect its Model Act to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation and this guide is a companion to the act.

If you are an elderly investor or a vulnerable adult who has suffered losses due to fraud, call our senior financial fraud law firm today.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said that BOK Financial Corporation subsidiary BOKF NA will pay over $1.6M to resolve charges accusing the Oklahoma-based bank of ignoring signs that businessman Christopher F. Brogdon was engaged in suspect activates related to his management of municipal bond offerings for investors. Brogdon was charged by the regulator with fraud last year and he must pay back investors $85M.
The federal government accused him of collecting almost $190M through private placement offerings and muni bond offerings. Investors thought they would earn interest from money made by assisted living facilities, nursing homes, or another retirement community project. Instead, Brogdon commingled accounts and redirected investor funds to other ventures and his own expenses.

According to the regulator, BOKF and ex-senior VP Marrien Neilson found out that Brogdon was taking money out from reserve funds for the muni bond offerings and not replacing the money. They also became aware that he had neglected to file annual financial statements for the bond offerings.

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Paul Mata, the founder of Logos Wealth Advisors, has been barred by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mata and fund manage David Kayatta, whom the SEC has also barred, are accused of fraudulently raising over $14M in investor funds.

Mata drew in investors through investment seminars and online videos that came with the promise of “Indestructible Wealth.” During presentations to church groups, he touted “Finances God’s Way.”

Kayatta was the manager of two unregistered investment funds while at Logos Wealth Advisors. According to the Commission, beginning in 2008, the two men raised this money from over 100 investors in the unregistered funds. Kayatta and Mata promised guaranteed returns, did not make any disciplinary history known, and misused investor money.

In the order against him, the SEC said that Kayatta was responsible for the misleading and false statements in private placement memoranda for the Funds. According to InvestmentNews, in 2010, Kayatta was ordered by the state of Nevada to cease-and-desist from pursuing investors in unregistered securities and taking part in investment advisory conduct without the proper licensing.

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