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In US district court in Oregon, siblings Gary Holcomb and Michael Holcomb pleaded guilty to money laundering and felony conspiracy in a $40M Ponzi fraud that bilked approximately 40 investors. The brothers were formerly executives at financing company Berjac. The insurance business went bankrupt in 2012.

Berjac was supposed to issue loans to small businesses so they could pay their insurance premiums. The loans were considered low risk, with Berjac getting to keep an interest in the part of the insurance premium that went unused should a business default on a loan.

Investors were told they’d get quick returns by investing in Berjac, and as borrowers repaid the loans with interest. The financing company made it appear as if that were the case by instead paying investors with funds given to them by other investors in Ponzi-like fashion. Meantime, the Holcombs would issue quarterly statements that contained false information to investors, even as the brothers used the money to pay down their debt, purchase a vacation home, and get involved in speculative real estate projects. When Berjac failed, investors lost their principal investments.

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SEC Charges SunTrust With Collecting Over $1.1M in Excess Mutual Fund Fees

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges accusing SunTrust Investment Services of collecting over $1.1M in unwarranted fees from mutual fund clients. The SunTrust Banks subsidiary will pay an over $1.1M penalty to resolve the regulator’s civil charges.

According to the regulator’s order, SunTrust Investment Services improperly recommended costlier mutual fund share classes to clients when less expensive shares of these funds were available. The SEC says this was a breach of the investment services firm’s fiduciary duty to take actions in the client’s best interests.

Financial Adviser Who Bilked Athletes, Including Mike Tyson, is Sentenced
Former SFX Financial Advisory Management Enterprises financial advisor Brian Ourand is sentenced to thirty years behind bars after he bilked a number of professional athletes, including former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, ex-NBA basketball players Glen Rice and Dikembe Mutombo, and others. Ourand must also pay back $1M of what he stole.

Not only is he accused of forging the pro athletes’ signatures on checks that he cashed but also of taking credit cards out against these clients’ accounts to cover his own spending, including restaurants, clothing, and other bills. SFX fired him in 2011.

In 2015, Ourand was charged with wire fraud, federal mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges. He pleaded guilty to one criminal count of wire fraud.

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In federal court in Boston, Howard Present, the former CEO and co-founder of F-Squared Investments Inc. is on trial over civil exchange-traded fund fraud charges brought against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Present is accused of lying about the firm’s flagship product, the AlphaSector model portfolio, to investors and making millions of dollars in the process.

According to the regulator, starting in 2008, Present touted the AlphaSector as having a successful track record going as far back as 2001. F-Squared claimed that this performance was based on a strategy developed by a multibillion dollar wealth manager when, in reality, it was based on an algorithm that had been applied to historical market information by the manager’s intern, who was a college student at a time. Also, the track record was hypothetical and not historical.

The regulator believes that there was a mistake in the hypothetical figures that caused a substantial inflation of investment performance that was used when creating marketing materials for the AlphaSector. The DEC contends that even though Present knew about the inaccuracies, he did not order a correction and continued to use the inflated performance numbers.

When F-Squared started marketing the strategy to possible clients, rather than stating that the potential performance of the strategy was set up in 2008, Present claimed that actual investment history had been used calculate the track record. A press release was even issued claiming that $100M in client money had been dedicated to the investment strategy for the past several years when the actual monetary figure for that was zero.

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NJ Investment Adviser Accused of Stealing Over $1M from Clients
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has brought investment adviser fraud charges against Scott Newsholme, a New Jersey-based financial adviser and tax preparer, accusing him of stealing over $1M from clients so he could support his lifestyle and support his gambling. According to the regulator, Newsholme generated fake account statements and “doctored stock certificates and forged promissory notes.”

Prosecutors have filed a parallel criminal case against him. Rather than invest clients’ funds in different securities as promised, Newsholme allegedly went to a check-cashing store to cash their checks and then kept their money for himself to cover his own expenses and gambling activities, as well as make Ponzi-like payments to the clients who wanted their money back.

Radio Host Accused of Stealing Millions of Dollars in Concert Ticket Scheme
Craig Carton, a sports radio host, is accused of running a concert ticket scam to bilk investors. According to the SEC’s complaint, he and Joseph Meli, another man whom the regulator had already filed charges against earlier this year, touted blocks of face value tickets to concert performances that were in demand and promised investors high returns that would come from ticket resales and their accompanying price markups.

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Daryl Gene Bank, who is the owner of dozens of Virginia liability companies, and Raeann Gibson have been arrested in an alleged investment fraud that prosecutors believe cost investors almost $20M. They are charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit both, taking part in illegal monetary transactions, and running a number of investment scams between 2012 through July 2017.

WTVR reports that among the allegations against Bank is that he caused a number of material misrepresentations and omissions to be presented to a number of investors, including a blind elderly investor who gave Bank $20K of his retirement money. Bank allegedly placed most of the funds in Prime Spectrum, which is purportedly an investment scam.

If convicted, Bank could be ordered to serve up to 260 years behind bars. Gibson could be sentenced to up to 240 years.

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In an effort to fight a $20 million coverage lawsuit brought by insurance carriers over Puerto Rico bond fraud cases, UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) argued in court that the exclusions at issue cannot be applied to these investors’ claims. The plaintiffs in the case include XL Specialty Insurance Co., Hartford Fire, and Axis.

According to Law360, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing notes that as of last year UBS is contending with $1.9 billion in claims – including civil, arbitration, and regulatory cases – over its Puerto Rico closed-end bond funds, and to date has already paid $740 million to resolve some of those claims. The bank has come under fire for the way it handled $10 billion of these closed-end bond funds, including claims that they pushed the securities onto investors who could not handle the risks involved and, in some cases, encouraged them to borrow funds to buy even more.

The bank wants coverage under new subsidiary policies that the insurers agreed to even though it includes a specific exclusion for claims that involve the closed-end fund debacle in any way. In its opposite brief, submitted to Puerto Rico federal court, UBS argued that the plaintiffs have not made much of an effort to argue how the exclusion could preclude every related claim, of which there are more than 1600. UBS noted in its brief that insurance law in the U.S. territory mandates that an insurance company defend the whole action even if just one claim is potentially covered.
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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is barring Jaime R. Rodriguez, an ex-HSBC Securities (HSBC) broker, in the wake of a charge accusing him of bilking an older customer, who is also legally blind, of $200K. HSBC fired Rodriguez in 2014.

Rodriguez is accused of using about $70K of the client’s money in 2012 to buy an apartment that was supposed to be for the customer. However, because the man couldn’t read or see the documents related to the purchase, he did not know that Rodriguez had named himself as the sole beneficial owner.

According to InvestmentNews, Rodriguez met the man in 2010 and began helping him with his errands. Also in 2012, Rodriguez purportedly recommended to the client that they set up a joint account together so that the then-HSBC broker could assist him in paying his bills. The account was opened using about $42K of the client’s money and at one point it held $153K.

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Aaron J. Johnson, a former registered investment adviser who ran Capital Advisors until state regulators took back his firm’s registration in 2013, is sentenced to five years behind bars for financial fraud. Johnson, 37, claimed that he stole over $600K from clients because he suffered a mental health breakdown.

According to prosecutors, Johnson took money from middle-class clients’ retirement accounts and charged them excessive fees to the point that he’d practically drained their funds. After Capital Advisors lost its registration, Johnson became affiliated with Trade PMR, a Florida-based firm that offers custody and brokerage services for investment advisers that are registered. Prosecutors contend that even then Johnson kept stealing from clients despite the fact that he was now under investigation. Prosecutors said that after Trade PMR began to question the fees that Johnson charged clients, including $3200 in client fees for an account that only held $13K in assets, the ex-adviser generated fraudulent documents as proof that his actions were warranted. He drained the account of the client, who was a single mom with three kids, until there was only $5 left.

Johnson has been ordered to pay back everyone that he defrauded.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against ex-financial adviser Dawn Bennett accusing her of bilking investors, making Ponzi-like payments, and spending clients’ funds on herself. According to the regulator, Bennett and her DJB Holdings LLC raised over $200M through the sale of notes issued to at least 46 investors by the luxury sports apparel company. Many of her victims were unsophisticated and older investors.

During the sales, Bennett allegedly claimed that the notes were safer than they actually were, as well as that her firm could pay yearly returns of up to 15%. Investors were purportedly told that their money would go toward company use but instead she paid back earlier investors in a Ponzi-like manner and used some of the funds to pay for her expenses. Meantime, contends the SEC’s complaint, Bennett hid the alleged fraud, lied to regulators, used sham promissory notes instead of actual convertible notes, and inflated her net worth.

Now, the Commission has charged Bennett and her company with violations of the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The regulator wants disgorgement, interest, and penalties for the alleged senior financial fraud.

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