Articles Posted in Ponzi Scams

Woodbridge to Appoint New Board to Run the Property Developer, Will Pay for Investor Fraud Lawyers
Woodbridge Group of Companies and the US Securities and Exchange Commission have come to an agreement that a New Board of Managers will be appointed to oversee the bankrupt property developer. The company, which is accused of running a $1.2B Ponzi scam, will pay for legal representation for its investors that continue to grapple with losses they may have sustained in the alleged fraud. Some 8,400 investors gave their money to Woodbridge.

Woodbridge owner Robert Shapiro is accused of owing over $961M to investors, many of them elderly investors, who purchased securities from the company while under the impression that they’d be guaranteed up to 8% interest. Investors were told that their money would be lent out to companies in exchange for up to 15% interest when, in fact, contends the SEC, these developers were entities that Shapiro himself controlled.

Shapiro, who is accused of taking at least $21M of investors’ funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle, denies the SEC’s allegations.

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Two Investment Advisers Accused of $20M Investor Scam
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against investment advisors Ronald A. Fossum and Alonzo Cahoon. They are accused defrauding retail investors in an unregistered securities scam. According to the regulator, from about 3/2011 to 6/2016, Fossum raised over $20M from more than 100 investors via securities offerings in investment funds under his control or ownership, including the:

  • Accelerated Asset Group, LLC
  • Turnkey Investment Fund, LLC
  • Smart Money Secured Income Fund, LLC

Fossum is accused of misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of investors’ money to pay his own expenses, including living in a home owned by one of the fund’s free of rent. He also allegedly used investor funds to pay for international travel and federal taxes.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed financial fraud charges against the Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC and its owner Robert H. Shapiro. The Woodbridge Group is comprised of unregistered investment companies. According to the regulator, Woodbridge and Shapiro ran a $1.2B Ponzi Scam that bilked over 8,400 investors, many of whom where older investors. At least 2,600 investors collectively spent close to $400M that came from their IRAs.

The civil fraud charges include other alleged federal securities law violations. The SEC also announced an asset freeze to keep more investor funds from dissipating. The regulator wants restoration of allegedly ill-gotten gains plus interest, as well as financial penalties.

Senior Financial Fraud
The Commission’s complaint accused Woodbridge and its owner of defrauding seniors using a “sham” business model that involved selling investments in unregistered Woodbridge funds. The company presented its main business as giving loans to third-party commercial property owners that were paying 11-15% in yearly interest for “’hard money’ short-term financing.” In fact, claims the SEC, the property owners were not third-parties but were companies belonging to Shapiro. Not only that but they had no income streams and never paid interest on these supposed loans. Woodbridge and Shapiro are said to have used investor money to buy nearly 200 commercial and residential properties in California and Colorado.

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The United Development Funding, a beleaguered Texas real estate investment trust accused of running a $1B Ponzi-like scam, is suing a hedge fund manager for the allegedly “false and disparaging” statements that led to the fraud allegations. The REIT came under fire two years ago after an investor website issued a report accusing UDF IV of being run like a Ponzi scam. For the last two years, our Texas securities fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD, LLP has been fielding calls from investors who suspect they may have suffered financial losses from investing in UDF Funds.

According to UDF’s complaint, filed in Dallas County, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass and his Hayman Capital Management are the ones that anonymously published the Ponzi allegations online and then later on a proprietary site. They allegedly did this to damage the UDF Funds.

In its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission about the complaint, the REIT accused the defendants of engaging in “false and disparaging statements,” including that: the UDF Funds were part of a Ponzi fraud, they were unable to run their own business, had insolvency problems that made their shares “worthless,” their real estate developments that were “not genuine,” and they “misappropriated” investors’ funds. The filing countered that the UDF Funds were “successful” and had actual real estate developments. The REIT claims that because Bass had set up a “large short position” in the Texas REIT before publishing the false allegations, he and his company “profited” from the damages wreaked by their claims.

Bass had a short position in the REIT. Once he disclosed this news, United Development Funding shares plunged in price. In response to this lawsuit, the hedge fund manager claims it is meritless.

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DOJ Begins Distributing Payments to Bernie Madoff’s Victims

Nearly nine years after Bernie Madoff was arrested for running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scam, the US Department Justice has begun to pay out distributions owed to his victims. The money comes from the Madoff Victim Fund, a $4B fund set up for settlements paid by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), which was the bank that the Ponzi mastermind used, and the estate of Jeffry Picower, who was one of Madoff’s longtime customers.

This fund will pay back over 24,000 victims some $772M during the first round of distributions. Another fund, which is supervised by bankruptcy court, has already paid out over $10B to investors. Investors who will be paid by from Madoff Victim Fund are those that did not qualify for recovery under the bankruptcy proceedings.

NY Woman Pleads Guilty to Running An Investment Scam

Alisa Adler has pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Adler is the ex-head of ASG Real Estate Services Group.

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Regulator Orders Alleged Ponzi Scammers to Pay $15.7M Plus Interest
In its final judgement against ex-pro football player William D. Allen, Susan Daub, and three entities, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering the defendants to pay over $15.7M in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains in addition to prejudgment interest for an alleged Ponzi scam that raised nearly $32M from investors. Allen, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, and Daub, who both pled guilty to related to criminal charges last year, have been sentenced to six years in prison. They must pay $16.8M in restitution for that action. The SEC’s order will be deemed met “based on the restitution order” in the criminal case.

The SEC’s complaint contends that Daub and Allen and the entities misled investors about the loans, which were supposed to go to professional athletes. Instead, they allegedly used just part of the money to issue the loans while using investors’ funds to cover nightclub and casino expenses, other ventures, and to pay back other investors.

Microcap Issuer and Its Ex-CEO Resolve Investor Fraud Allegations
Integrated Freight Corporation and its ex-chairman/CEO David N. Fuselier have settled SEC charges accusing them of investor fraud. Both Fuselier and the company, however, did not deny or admit to the allegations.

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In a subpoena enforcement action, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering 235 LLCs in Colorado and Delaware to provide documents related to its probe into whether Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC, a California-based real estate and investment company owned and run by its president Robert Shapiro, engaged in a $1B financial fraud. All of the entities, plus another LLC, are affiliated with Woodbridge. The regulator had subpoenaed the 236 of them for the documents in August. Only one LLC responded by the deadline.

Now, the Commission wants a federal district court to make the rest of the LLCs comply with the subpoenas. Meantime, Shapiro has invoked his Fifth Amendment right. However, he maintains that his company did not commit fraud.

SEC Has Been Probing Woodbridge Since 2016
For the past year, the regulator has been looking into looking into possible securities fraud by Woodbridge and others involving more than $1B that was provided by thousands of investors throughout the US. The alleged fraud may include unregistered securities sales, including securities sales by brokers who were not registered, and other fraud.

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Brian R. Callahan, a former investment fund manager, has been ordered to serve 12 years in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a $96M Ponzi scam. He also must pay $67.6M in restitution. Callahan pleaded guilty to wire fraud and securities fraud in 2014.

Between 12/2006 and 2/2012, Callahan raised over $118M from at least 40 investors related to four investment funds he oversaw. He told investors that their money would be placed in different securities, such as hedge funds and mutual funds. What happened instead was that the former investment manager misappropriated about $96M in a Ponzi scam.

Callahan is accused of diverting millions of dollars toward an unprofitable beachfront residence and resort development named Panoramic View that he co-owned with his brother-in-law, Adam Manson. The latter is a co-defendant in the Ponzi fraud.

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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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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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