Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

Grand Jury Indicts Texas Woman in $1M Ponzi Scam
A federal grand jury has indicted Nemelee Liwanag Jiao on two wire fraud counts for allegedly running a Texas Ponzi scam that cost investors over $1M. At least 35 investors were bilked.

According to the indictment, Jiao, a Texas resident, had investors back promissory notes that were supposedly issued by two non-profit schools in the Philippines when, in reality, she was using their money on herself. Jiao told investors she represented both Lord of Peace Learning Center and Shepherd’s Light Learning Center and she got them to invest their money in the promissory notes after promising 10-100% in returns. She also promised that they would get back their principle plus interest within 30-days to a year of investing.

The indictment against Jiao stated that she will have to forfeit all proceeds if convicted. She faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud, as well as a $250K fine.

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FINRA Suspends Broker For Accepting $105K in Gifts
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has suspended Adam C. Smith from the securities industry for a year. The former Merrill Lynch broker, who was fired from the firm, will pay a $10K fine.

According to the self-regulatory organization, while at Merrill Lynch, Smith and his wife accepted $26K in checks from a couple whom he represented. The money was to help fund the education of Smith’s children. When one of the client’s passed away, the remaining spouse gifted Smith and his wife another $53K, again to pay for their kids’ education. Smith received $26K from other clients.

Although he is settling, Smith is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s findings.

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San Angeleno Man Goes to Prison Over Investment Scams
Stanley Jonathan Fortenberry of Texas has been sentenced to 78 months behind bars for running two investment scams and bilking investors of about $900K. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and mail fraud in 2016. Now, Fortenberry must pay over $890K in restitution and forfeit more than $311K.

Fortenberry ran Premier Investment Fund and raised money for social media projects operated by another company. According to prosecutors, the Texas man misled investors about that company’s profitability and regarding what their money would be used for. He admitted to diverting about half of investors’ money to himself and to his fundraising operation.

Fortenberry also ran Wattenberg Energy Partners, a company that raised money for oil and glass drilling projects in Colorado. He admitted to establishing the company under his son’s name because the US Securities and Exchange Commission was already investigating him about the way Premier investors’ funds were being used.

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RIA Misappropriated Over $865K and Withdrew $640K in Excess Fees, Say Prosecutors
Broidy Wealth Advisors CEO Mark Broidy has pleaded guilty to taking $640K in excess management fees from clients and misappropriating over $864K in stock that were in trusts of which he was the trustee. Now, the registered investment advisor must make restitutions to those whom he defrauded. He could end up serving up to five years behind barsamong other penalties.

According to the Justice Department, from around 11/2010 to 7/2016 Broidy billed more than what he was allowed to in compensation, which caused three clients to pay more than $640K in excess fees. He concealed his theft by falsifying those clients’ IRS Form 1099s.

After one client demanded that Broidy pay back the stolen funds the latter allegedly sold over $865K of stock from another client’s trust accounts, which were for that person’s children. Broidy also suggested that several clients invest in startups with which he had deals to pay him part of any money he raised on the companies’ behalf. The clients didn’t know about these arrangements.

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According to the AARP Investment Fraud Vulnerability Study, published by the AARP Fraud Watch Network, active, older investors who get involved in unregulated investments may be more vulnerable to investment fraud. 214 fraud victims were interviewed, along with 814 members of the public who are considered general investors.

The study said that there are appear to be certain traits that may identify why some people are more likely to become fraud victims, including:

· Usually men, age 70 or older.

· These men are often risk-takers.

· They’re more likely to value wealth accumulation as a sign of financial success.

· They’re typically open to sales pitches and to answering remote sales pitches.

Doug Shadel, the lead researcher for the AARP Fraud Network, noted that if an older investor is able to identify whether/not she has a predisposition toward risky conduct, this could make the person more mindful of that tendency and he/she might potentially avoid becoming vulnerable to fraud.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed Texas fraud charges against Patrick O. Howard, Optimal Economics Capital Partners, LLC (OE Capital) and Howard Capital Holdings, LLC. Howard controls the two Dallas-based companies., which have raised about $13M from 119 investors. The regulator is alleging that the money went to fraudulent offerings involving private fund investments in three limited liability companies and that Howard falsely presented himself as a registered investment adviser when, in fact, he was not. In addition to offering and selling units through OE Capital, he retained two firms to do the same and paid them a 5% commission.

The SEC is charging Howard and his companies with violating the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The regulator wants permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.

According to the Commission, which filed its complaint under seal in Dallas federal court, Howard and his two companies promised investors 12-20% yearly returns, along with minimal risk. They also purportedly claimed that almost all invested money would go toward acquiring interest in revenue streams of the portfolio companies and that promised returns were insured.

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Arizona Man to Pay $500K To Settle SEC Fraud Charges
James P. Toner will pay over $500K to settle charges accusing him of taking investors’ money. The Arizona man claimed to be a real estate manager and allegedly told investors that he would be personally managing three real estate ventures in which they were buying interests. The stated purpose of every investor’s offering was to buy a residential property in the Phoenix area. The property was to be renovated and then sold at a profit.

According to the SEC’s securities fraud complaint, Toner raised at least $915K from 18 investors from mid-’13 through ’14. The investors lost about $682K. Toner is accused of misappropriating about $51K of investor money that he purportedly tried to hide through bank account transfers. (The regulator’s complaint stated that Toner was paid $31K in undisclosed management fees even though he never actually managed the offerings, and that he flat-out stole $20K from an investor.)

Toner also purportedly did not perform any due diligence when he entrusted a real estate broker to manage the investments. This broker was later sent to jail for other crimes.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Sentinel Growth Fund Management and its owner Mark J. Varacchi. The regulator is accusing the Connecticut-based investment advisory firm of stealing at least $3.95M from investors. Over $1M was allegedly used to resolve private litigation in which Varacchi was the defendant.

According to the Commission, Sentinel Growth Management Fund and Varacchi misrepresented to investors that their money would go to hedge fund managers to be invested. Instead, the investment advisor firm allegedly commingled investor money and manipulated account balances, activities, and investment returns as part of a securities fraud.

Now, the SEC wants disgorgement and penalties brought against Varacchi and his firm in this investment advisor fraud case.

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Bond Fraud Case Leads to Conviction for Former Visium Asset Management 

A jury has convicted Stefan Lumiere, a former Visium Asset Management LP portfolio manager, of wire fraud and securities fraud. Lumiere was accused of conspiring to artificially inflate the value of a fund that was invested in debt issued by healthcare companies. Prosecutors said that his actions caused the fund’s net asset value to become overstated by tens of millions of dollars, compelling investors to pay more than they should have for the securities. They argued that Lumiere got fraudulent price quotes from brokers who worked outside the firm in order to override prices that the credit fund’s administrator had calculated. They say that he mismarked securities for years.

Ex-Former Hilliard Lyons Broker Doesn’t Appear to Testify, Gets Barred by FINRA 

Morgan Stanley Accused of Overbilling Investment Advisory Clients

The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MS) will pay a $13M penalty to resolve charges accusing the firm of overbilling clients through billing system and coding mistakes and violating the custody rule regarding yearly surprise exams.

As a result, said the regulator’s order, Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay over $16M in excess fees because of billing mistakes that took place from ’02 to ’16. Investment advisory clients that were affected have been paid back the excess fees in addition to interest.

According to the Commission, Morgan Stanley overcharged over 149,000 investment advisory clients. The reason for this is that the firm did not put into place compliance policies and procedures that were designed reasonably enough to make sure that clients were accurately billed according to their advisory agreements. The SEC said that Morgan Stanley did not validate billing rates that were in its billing system against client billing histories, contracts, and other documents.

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