Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

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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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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Two Men Are Accused of Scamming Indiana Investors in More than $3.5M Ponzi Scam 
Prosecutors are charging two Indiana men with securities fraud involving a Ponzi scam. They claim that Richard E. Gearhart and his business partner George R. McKown sold securities to investors who moved their annuities, pensions, cash, and 401ks to invest in Asset Preservation Specialists Inc. The investors were purportedly promised a guaranteed return rate.

The authorities say that McKown and Gearhart were not registered with the state of Indiana or the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell these securities.

It was in 2013 that a number of Gearhart’s clients filed complaints against him after he filed for Chapter 13 federal bankruptcy. They contended that their losses collectively totaled over $2M. Court records, however, indicate that the two men allegedly stole over $3.5M from over two dozen investors. between ’08 and ’13.

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Minnesota-Based Investment Adviser Gets Six-Year Jail Term
According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Levi David Lindemann was ordered to serve a 74-month prison sentence—that’s six years—for bilking clients in a Ponzi scam.  Lindemann owned Gershwin Financial, which did business using the name Alternative Wealth Solutions. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and federal mail fraud charges.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said that Lindemann abused his position as a financial adviser when he defrauded clients, including older investors. He did this by promising to invest their funds in safe investments but instead used their money to make Ponzi-type payments to clients and pay for his own expenses.

Lindemann’s guilty plea states that he solicited money from about 50 investors. He attempted to hide the securities fraud by generating fake secured notes as supposed evidence of the clients’ investments. The SEC permanently barred him from the securities industry earlier this year.


SEC Accuses Barred Broker of Selling Securities to Older Investors 

According to the SEC, ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker Rafael Calleja solicited $2.7M from 10 retiree and elderly investors after he had already been barred from the securities industry. The regulator claims that Calleja told investors their principal was insured and they would get a fixed return rate in a year. Meantime, he allegedly used at least $12K of their funds to pay for cruises, golf outings, and other personal expenses. He also purportedly failed to tell investors that his broker license had been revoked.

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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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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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Charles August Banks IV was arrested in San Antonio this week. Banks, is charged with two counts of wire fraud related to a $7.5M investment that former NBA basketball star Tim Duncan made with Gameday Entertainment, a sports merchandising company. Banks became Duncan’s financial adviser nearly two decades ago while working for CSI Capital management and he advised him for years.

Banks, now a renowned wine investor,  is  also facing a securities fraud lawsuit brought by the SEC. Although Duncan, formerly with the San Antonio Spurs, isn’t named specifically in the complaint, the regulator said that the case involves an ex-pro basketball player who was Banks’ client.

The SEC claims that Banks made material misrepresentations and omissions of key facts to the basketball player to persuade him to invest in Gameday.  Among the alleged misrepresentations:

Caldwell International Securities Gets $2M Fine to Settle Churning Allegations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has imposed a $2M fine on Caldwell International Securities Corp. It is fining Greg Caldwell, who is the principal of the financial firm, $50K. He is now barred from serving as a principal in the securities industry.

FINRA contends that supervisory failures is what allowed Caldwell International Securities’ brokers to allegedly engage in churning. This involves a trader taking part in excessive trading to make the most in commissions possible. The self-regulatory organization said that the firm’s failures caused fifteen clients to pay over $1M in commissions and fees on investment recommendations that were not appropriate for them.

FINRA believes the firm grew too fast and that this was one of the reasons its inadequate supervisory system was purportedly inadequate. The SRO said that it was this lack of proper supervision that made it possible for advisors to make unsuitable investment recommendations.

The regulator said that even after customers complained, Caldwell and other senior employees did not remedy this matter. In 2015, ex-Caldwell registered representative Richard Adams was barred by FINRA. The regulator claimed that Adams made $57K in commissions while clients sustained $3K in losses because of overtrading that took place in two customer accounts.

Alabama Attorney is Accused of Defrauding Professional Athletes, Other Investors Of Over $6M
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Donald Watkins and his companies with fraud. According to the regulator, the Alabama lawyer and his Masada Resource Group LLC and Watkins Pencour LLC bilked investors, including professional athletes, out of more than $6M in supposed waste-to-energy ventures.

The SEC complaint said that the defendants made the false claim that an international waste treatment company was considering acquiring Watkins’ two companies and their affiliated companies in a multi-billion dollar deal. In reality, said the regulator, Waste Management Inc. only had a brief first meeting with the defendants in 2012. This was over a year after the defendants started telling investors that talks were moving forward and an acquisition was going to happen.

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