SEC Charges Filed in $22M Ponzi Scam that Targeted Florida Teachers and Retirees

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities charges against James Davis Risher and Daniel Joseph Sebastian. The two men are accused of running a Ponzi scam that raised over $22 million from over 100 investors. Many of the victims were Florida retirees and teachers that entrusted the two men with their life savings.

Charges against Sebastian and Risher include two counts of fraud in the sale or offer of securities, unregistered securities sales, fraud related to the sale or purchase of securities, investment adviser fraud, and violations of aiding and abetting. This would include alleged violations of the Securities Act of 1933, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

According to the SEC, the two men ran a bogus private equity fund and lured people in by promising 14-124% investment gains. The fake account was called “The Preservation of Principal Fund.” Investors fake bogus account statements claiming high returns. Also, money being brought in from new investors was used to pay the older investors. The names that Sebastian and Risher used to market the fund were Safe Harbor Private Equity Fund, Preservation of Principal Fund, and Managed Capital Fund.

From January 2007 through July 2010, Sebastian allegedly gave out materials to potential investors. $100,000 was the supposed minimum that one could invest. Even though only $3.8 million of the money they raised was actually invested, the two men allegedly paid themselves more than $16 million in bogus performance and management fees.

RIsher, who is accused of spending over $140,000 of the money on designer jewelry, cars, and artwork, allegedly told investors that he was experienced in wealth and asset management and trading equities when, in fact, he did not have this experience and had spent 11 years of the last two decades behind bars.

Meantime, Sebastian allegedly approached former customers that he worked with when he was an insurance broker. In addition to seniors and teachers, he also targeted church members, as well as investors outside Florida and in Canada.

The SEC is accusing the two men of making misrepresentations and omissions to clients about the fund’s investment strategy, returns, risks involved, audited financial statements, and Risher’s criminal past. Sebastian allegedly even told investors that they couldn’t lose their principal investments and gave some of them written guarantees that any losses would be reimbursed.

The FBI, the IRS, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation all investigated this Florida financial scam. In the related criminal case, Risher has pleaded guilty to money laundering and mail fraud. He faces up to 50 years in prison. However, because he cooperated with federal authorities on this case, his punishment may not be so severe.

Risher also has prior criminal convictions for securities fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to violating Georgia’s securities act, as well as multiple counts of theft.

Related Web Resources:

SEC Charges Two Florida Men in Ponzi Scheme Defrauding Teachers and Retirees, SEC, August 29, 2011
James Risher pleads guilty in $21 million Florida Ponzi scheme, WTSP, August 30, 2011
Two named in $22 mil. ponzi scheme case, News Chief, August 31, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Texas Securities Fraud: Ex-Triton Financial CEO Convicted of Ponzi Scam that Bilked Ex-Heisman Trophy Winner Ty Detmer, Other Former NFL Players, and Hundreds of Other Investors of of Millions, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 22, 2011
Even as Ponzi Schemers Serve Time Behind Bars, Investors Are Left Coping with Millions in Financial Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 25, 2011
Madoff Trustee Files Securities Lawsuit Against Safra National Bank of New York Seeking to Recover Almost $111.7M for Ponzi Scam Investors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 12, 2011
Unfortunately, there are those who will not think twice about defrauding seniors, teachers, and others who cannot afford to have their investments fail. Our Ponzi fraud lawyers are here to help our clients recoup their losses.

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