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Investment Advisory Firm Founder Gets 2-Year Prison Term, Will Pay $1.3M for Fraud
Michael J. Breton, a Massachusetts investment adviser, has been sentenced to two years behind bars for running a cherry picking scam that allowed him to bilk clients. Breton, the founder of Strategic Capital Management, admitted to keeping profitable trades for himself while making unprofitable ones for customers. Breton has been ordered to pay them $1.3M in restitution.

The cherry picking scheme went on for six years, bilking 30 investors. According to regulators and prosecutors, when certain companies were slated to announce earnings announcements, Breton would purchase securities through a master account or via block trading. When the earnings news would raise a stock’s price, Breton would keep the trades. When an earnings announcement would cause a stock’s price to go down,
he would disburse these trades to clients.

Jury Convicts Indiana Investment Advisor of Securities Fraud
This week in Pittsburgh, a jury convicted Bernard Parker of mail fraud, securities fraud, and of filing false tax returns. Parker, who was the principal of Parker Financial Services, is accused of bilking 22 clients of over $1.2M and falsifying his US tax returns by not including over $790K in income.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Wells Fargo Securities (WFC) to pay a $3.25M fine for inaccuracies and mistakes in its reporting for over-the-counter trades that took place between January 2008 and March 2017. The self-regulatory organization also has censured the firm.

According to FINRA, in 2008, Wells Fargo (WFC) reviewed its OTC options trading reporting procedures. It went on to set up systems for reporting these types of trades. However, the firm’s reporting system was never fully established.

Wells Fargo Securities did not actually start reporting OTC options trades until after the firm achieved self-clearing status in 2014. Even then, claims the SRO, Wells Fargo either did not report or was inaccurate when reporting quite a number of these trades.

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Stock Promoters Accused in Pump-and-Dump Scam
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against James M. Farinella, his Integrated Capital Partners Inc., Anthony Amado, and his Equity Awareness Group with fraud over the alleged inflation and manipulation of a microcap company’s share price. As a result of the alleged pump-and-dump scam, the fraud made over $1M.

According to the regulator, Farinella and his consulting firm controlled almost the whole public float of stock in Pazoo Inc. Farinella paid Amado’s company to promote the microcap issuer and take part in matched trading to make it appear as if there was market activity for the stock. Amado and one of his employees, Carlo Palomino, are accused of enacting the scam, which allowed Farinella to make over $1M when dumping the Pazoo shares.

New Jersey prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Farinella over the microcap fraud allegations.

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Stephen J. Hatch, the mastermind of a $70M Arizona Ponzi scam, has been sentenced to five years in prison. Hatch, who pleaded guilty to fraud, targeted Christian investors, causing many of them to lose their life savings.

As part of his plea deal, the Texas man agreed to pay back $1M to investors. Meantime, prosecutors agreed to not file criminal charges against Hatch’s children.

Many of his victims were family members and friends. Hatch persuaded 110 investors to back various real estate properties by promising double digit returns on land deals.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory has barred Lawrence M. Thomas, an ex-Woodbury Financial Services Inc. broker who was under investigation for unauthorized product sales. Thomas was previously registered with Essex Securities.

Last year, Thomas was fined $5K and suspended for three months after he consented to findings that he told an assistant to forge three customers’ signatures on about 10 documents. FINRA had been looking into whether Thomas recommended to Woodbury clients that they purchase an unauthorized product. The self-regulatory organization barred him after he failed to testify in FINRA’s investigation into the claims.

In an unrelated FINRA case, the SRO has filed charges against Kim Dee Isaacson, an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, for allegedly misleading a client about the size of his account, engaging in unauthorized trading, and attempting to resolve these issues directly with the client instead of along with the firm. According to FINRA, Isaacson told the client that the account was valued at $3.1M even though that was false.

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In interviews with Reuters, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority admitted that even though investors are harmed when broker-dealers hire brokers with checkered histories, there is not much that the regulator can do to stop this practice because it is not illegal. This is undoubtedly causing even more investors to suffer losses as some of these high-risk brokers continue to engage in more misconduct or other violations at their new places of work.

For example, reports the news agency, since 2007 broker Mike McMahon and brokerage firms where he has worked, including National Securities Corporation, have shelled out $1.35M to resolve 10 client cases in which he was purportedly involved. McMahon is currently contending with another four broker fraud cases that were brought by other ex-clients.

One of the reasons the complaints keep coming is because he has been able to move from one firm to another even with the cases that have already been brought against him. Unfortunately, McMahon is not the only one.

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In Kokesh v. SEC, the US Supreme Court has restricted the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to pursue disgorgement after five years have passed since the fraud alleged led to illegal profits. In a unanimous decision, the nation’s highest court said that that the five-year statute of limitations must be followed.

The securities fraud lawsuit was brought by Charles Kokesh, who was convicted for misappropriating funds from four investment companies that he controlled and using the money to support his expensive lifestyle. In 2015, a judge ordered Kokesh to pay a $2.4M civil penalty.

Additionally, because the SEC considered disgorgement to have no statute of limitations, the judge also ordered the businessman to pay $35M. This is how much he was calculated to have illegally made starting from when he began engaging in his illegal conduct, from 1995 to 2009.
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According to Bloomberg, trading in Puerto Rico securities has gone up even after the U.S. territory filed for Title III bankruptcy protection last month. Over the last 50 days, $267.4 million of Commonwealth debt was the daily average that traded, which is more than the $195.9 million daily average from the last 200 days. Analyzing the increase, Matt Fabian of Municipal Market Analytics speculated to Bloomberg that investors who purchased the bonds might have assumed that the federally appointed financial control board tasked with fixing the island’s financial problems would succeed.

Puerto Rico owes more than $70 billion of bond debt and, additionally, has over $40 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. After talks with creditors went nowhere, Puerto Rico sought bankruptcy protection. Now, creditors will have to go to court to try to get back their losses.

However, those legal cases are being led by institutional investors, such as hedge funds and mutual funds. Nevertheless, retail investors and others continue to try to get back their investment losses starting from when Puerto Rico bonds and closed-end bond funds began plummeting almost four years ago. What seemed like a good investment—tax-exempt and allegedly low-risk—ended up proving catastrophic for many who were told, falsely, that investments were safe and appropriate for their portfolios. Hundreds were encouraged by brokers to borrow so they could invest even more money in these securities.

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Former Stifel, Nicolaus Broker is Accused of Variable Annuity Violations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has suspended an ex-Stifel, Nicolaus (SF) broker for four months over variable annuity transactions that he purportedly inappropriately recommended to certain investors. At the time of the alleged variable annuity fraud, James Keith Cox worked with Sterne, Agee & Leach. Stifel Financial later acquired that firm.

According to the regulator, Cox recommended a number of VA transactions even though there was no reasonable grounds for thinking they were appropriate for the investors. In addition to the suspension, Cox will disgorge the $25,460 he was paid in commissions.

FINRA Bars California Man From Industry Over $100M in Undisclosed EB-5 Investment Sales
A FINRA hearing panels has barred a California-based registered representative for taking part in private securities transactions involving $100M in EB-5 Investments that he failed to disclose to his employer financial firm. Jim Seol sold the EB-5 investments through his business Western Regional Center Incorporated.

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In yet another investor fraud case in which the alleged fraudsters touted the sale of tickets from the musical Hamilton, Jason Nissen is charged with wire fraud in a $70M Ponzi scam. According to prosecutors, the CEO of National Event Co. raised money by falsely claiming that he would use investors’ funds to purchase and resell wholesale tickets for premier events, including the Broadway hit and the Super Bowl.

Although Nissen did buy tickets with some of the money, most of the funds purportedly did not go toward ticket purchases. According to court filings, what Nissen allegedly was actually doing with the funds was paying back earlier investors. After running out of new funds this month, he purportedly admitted to two investors that he’d bilked them. He also allegedly said that he’d forged documents to conceal his scam.

Among Nissen’s alleged victims are a diamond wholesaler that lent him $32M and a private equity firm, which gave him $40M to invest. This same firm owns part of National Event Co.

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