Articles Posted in SEC

Investment Adviser Settles SEC Case for $575K
John W. Rafal, a Connecticut-based investment adviser, has agreed to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission charges for $575K. As part of the settlement, Rafal is admitting wrongdoing in a civil case that accuses him of bilking a client and then trying to mislead the SEC while lying to other clients about the regulator’s probe.

The SEC said that Rafal paid attorney Peter D. Hershman in secret for referring one of his client’s to Essex Financial Services, which is the firm that Rafal founded. He is no longer affiliated with Essex. Rather than disclose the referral deal to the older widow who was that client, Rafal and Hershman concealed the payments as “legal fees.” Even after Essex officers found out about and stopped the referral arrangement, the deal between the two men continued in secret. The SEC also said that Rafal responded to rumors that he had violated a securities law by emailing his clients and falsely stating that the regulator’s probe had been resolved. He also purportedly tried persuading the Commission that his arrangement with Hershing was over.

Essex Financial Services will pay $180K in disgorgement and interest to resolve charges connected to Rafal’s wrongful behavior. Herhsman will pay over $90K to resolve the civil charges accusing him of aiding and abetting the violations committed by Rafal. The two men agreed to a securities industry bar and from serving in the roles of director or officer for any publicly traded company. They also are no longer allowed to represent clients regarding SEC matters.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is charging two brokers with securities fraud. The regulator claims that Donald J. Fowler and Gregory T. Dean fraudulently employed an in-and-out trading strategy that was not suitable for customers so that they could make more in commissions. Because of their actions, 27 customers alleged lost substantial amounts of money. Fowler and Dean are accused of violating the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10-B5.The Commission said that they examine trading patterns involving over two dozen of the brokers’ customer accounts.

The SEC contends that the two men did not engage in any due diligence to figure out whether their investment strategy could help customers obtain even the smallest profit. With their strategy, they engaged in the frequent purchase and sale of securities, which would both take place within a two-week or shorter timeframe. They charged customers a commission for every transaction. Meantime, Fowler and Dean were the only ones who had a chance of making a profit.

SEC Warns Investors to Look Out for Excessive Trading, Churning

Along with its announcement of this securities case, the SEC put out an Investor Alert cautioning the public about churning and excessive trading. In its alert, the regulator warned about red flags that may be signs of these types of fraud, including trading that a customer did not authorize, which is known as unauthorized trading, trading that happens more often than seems reasonable for a customer’s investment objectives and/or the level of risk that the portfolio can handle, and suspicious and/or unusually high fees.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is barring a number of market participants from the penny stock industry for their involvement in a number of purportedly fake initial public offerings of microcap stocks. The regulator says that investors were bilked because of these schemes.

Among those barred is Newport Beach, CA securities attorney Michael J. Muellerleile. He is accused of authorizing misleading and bogus registration statements that were employed in fake IPOs for several microcap issuers. The statements were generated to purportedly move unrestricted penny stock shares to offshore market participants. Muellerleile’s firm, M2 Law Professional Corp, attorney Lan Phuong Nguyen, and American Energy Development Corp. CFO Joel Felix are also charged in this microcap fraud case.

Nguyen allegedly signed misleading and false legal opinion letters. Felix is accused of making misleading and false statements. Earlier this month, the regulator suspended trading in American Energy Development.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities fraud charges against Naris Chamroonrat of Thailand and American Adam L Plumer. The regulator contends that the two men ran a fake day-trading that collectively defrauded hundreds of investors in over 30 nations of over $1.4M. At least 180 of the investors are from the US, including several from New Jersey.

Chamroonrat purportedly recruited Plumer to bring in investors to engage in day trading via Nonko Trading, an unregistered broker-dealer. The firm promised low trading commissions, good leverage, and low deposit requirement minimums.

However, contends the regulator, rather than employing a live securities trading platform, the firm gave certain investors training accounts that simulated the execution and placement of their orders that were never actually sent to the markets. Instead, their money went toward Chamroonrat’s own expenses, payments to Plumer and others, and was used as Ponzi-like payments to investors who decided close their accounts. The Commission believes that the day trading scam purposely targeted novice investors who were more apt to make trades that were not profitable, less likely to attempt to take money out of their account, and more prone to assuming that their investment losses were from trading and not because of fraud.

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Ex-Financial Adviser Who Worked for Texas-Based Firm is Barred by SEC After Defrauding Pro Athletes 
Ash Narayan, an ex-California financial adviser, has been barred by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Narayan, who is accused of secretly receiving almost $2M from companies that he invested in on behalf of his professional athlete clients, agreed to no longer associate with advisory or brokerage firms to resolve the regulator’s allegations.

Narayan worked for Dallas firm RGT Wealth Advisors, but he was based in California as the managing director of its Irvine office. He also is accused of misrepresenting himself as a CPA and placing clients in unsuitable private investments. In October, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards issued a temporary suspension against him while an investigation was conducted into the allegations. RGT Wealth Advisers fired Narayan early this year.

According to the SEC, Narayan’s alleged fraud occurred between 2010 and 2016, during which time he directed $33M to a company that he was involved in and was in poor financial health. By settling, Narayan is not denying or admitting to the SEC charges.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed promissory note fraud charges against Onix Capital and it owner Albert Chang-Rajii.  The Miami-based asset management company and Chang are accused of bilking investors who put their money into promissory notes and start-ups, as well as of falsely portraying the Chilean national as an award-winning multi-millionaire “angel” investor who had graduated from Stanford University’a business school.

According to the regulator’s complaint, Chang and Onix Capital sold over $5.7M in promissory notes that they falsely claimed he had guaranteed and told investors that the notes themselves  “guaranteed” yearly returns of 12-19%. They also raised over $1.7M that Chang was supposed to invest in companies like Square, Snapchat and Uber.

The SEC said that, in truth, Onix Capital’s investment revenue was “non-existent” and Chang did not have the professional or educational background that he touted.  The Commission alleges that rather than use the funds as promised, the money went to Chang and to pay other investors.

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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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Investment Adviser Who Bilked Pro Athletes Gets CFP Board Suspension
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has issued a temporary suspension against Ash Narayan. The California-based investment adviser is accused of bilking professional athletes of millions of dollars.

Narayan was recently named in a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint. In June, the regulator accused him of misrepresenting his professional qualifications and misappropriating client monies when he allegedly siphoned funds from investors’ accounts and invested the money in Ticket Reserve, a flailing online sports and entertainment ticket business.

Narayan is accused of moving  $33M of investor funds to the company and did not tell the athletes that he was a member of Ticket Reserve’s board, owned stock in the company, and was paid a $2M in finder’s fees for making the investments. The CFP Board called the investments “unsuitable” and not in line with clients’ objectives. The board also noted that some of the investments were made without client consent or knowledge.

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According to parent firm Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. (LTS), the SEC  is scrutinizing Securities America Advisors Inc., which is the registered investment adviser arm of independent broker-deal Securities America Inc., and Triad Advisors Inc., over allegations that the firms sold mutual funds that charged clients yearly marketing fees when there were less costly options available. These marketing fees are referred to as 12b-1 fees. It is paid to advisors yearly for continuing education and service.

Ladenburg Thalmann’s disclosed news that its firms were under investigation in its quarterly earnings report. In the report, the firm said that SEC staff gave Securities America Holdings and Triad reports in May and August contending that the two firms had “acted inconsistently” regarding their fiduciary duty when recommending and choosing mutual fund share classes that paid these marketing fees. The SEC pointed out that there had been less costly share classes available in the same funds. 

Ladenburg Thalmann said that Securities America Advisors and Triad are looking at the SEC’s assessments and they may have to pay restitution to clients. 
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Texas Man and His Energy Company Must Pay Arizona Restitution, Penalties for Oil Well-Related Misrepresentations

Texas resident Kenneth White and his Marchant International Resources Inc. must pay almost $1.4M plus $150K in penalties for misrepresenting its participation in two oil well projects that was backed by 12 Arizona investors. The fine was issued by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), which accused White of failing to disclose the complete facts about his business, the company’s experience with well-drilling, and Merchant’s efforts with two wells. The $150K penalty is because White did not disclose that he was previously convicted for a $4.3M felony theft crime when he was marketing himself and his experience in energy extraction.

 

More than 700 Investors to Get $11.2M in Restitution Over Inadequate Disclosures 

White and his company are not the only ones facing fines brought by the ACC in an energy case. Brian C. Hageman and his Hydrotherm Power Corp. and Deluge Inc. now have to pay $11.2M in resittion to over 700 investors. According to the state, while  marketing a thermal hydraulic engine project, Hageman did not tell investors that the two companies were no longer in valid operation. He also must pay a $55K administrative penalty for bilking shareholders.

 

SEC Accuses Minnesota-Based Energy Company Co-Founder of Stock Price Manipulation

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against the co-founder of a Minnesota-based energy company. Ryan Gilbertson is accused of rigging Dakota Plains Holdings’ stock price while hiding his control of the company in order make a lot of money.  The SEC claims that Gilbertson enriched himself by over $16M as he and others allegedly bilked shareholders through price rigging. Meantime, his co-founder, Michael Reger, will pay almost $8M to settle the charges brought against him.

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