Articles Posted in SEC

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against a former broker and investment adviser. According to the regulator’s investment adviser fraud complaint, Jay Costa Kelter defrauded three retirees of over $1.856M. Meantime, prosecutors in Tennessee have filed a criminal case against him related to one of the clients. A federal grand jury indicted him on multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, and security fraud.

The SEC contends that from 9/2013 through last year, Kelter, who owns insurance and investment firm BEK Consulting Partners LLC (known in the past as Kelter & Company LLC), made misrepresentations to the older investors, whom he’d persuaded in 2013 to transfer their accounts to TD Ameritrade (AMTD) after he left his former employer. The former broker had access to their new accounts and was authorized to keep giving them investment advice and make trades on their behalf while, meantime, he allegedly used the funds for himself.

For example, Kelter is accused of misappropriating $1.467M from a 75-year-old widow who was nearly totally financial dependent on her investments by engaging in fraud and forgery. The SEC’s complaint said that the client had told him she was only interested in making conservative investments.

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Leonard Vincent Lombardo, a former broker once employed at Stratton Oakmont, is now charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, along with his company and business partner, with involvement in an alleged real estate investment scam that defrauded over 100 investors, including retirees, of $6M. Lombardo, his firm The Leonard Vincent Group (TLVG), and CFO Brian Hudlin have settled the SEC charges.

According to the regulator’s complaint, investors were told that their money would be placed in “distressed real estate” and their money would grow by over 50 percent within months when, in fact, the investments did not make real earnings.

For their investments, investors were given shares or units in an LVG fund. They were under the impression that the funds were to be pooled with other investors’ money and then, according to the strategies in the LVG Funds’ Private Placement Memoranda, collectively invested in the distressed real estate.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has secured a final judgment by default in its broker fraud case against Demitrios Hallas. The former broker was charged by the regulator in April for allegedly trading unsuitable investment products in five customers’ accounts. The customers were unsophisticated investors with not much, if any, experience in investing. Their net worth and income levels were modest enough that risky investments were not a good fit for their portfolios.

According to the regulator’s complaint, in a period of a little over a year, Hallas traded 179 daily leveraged exchange traded funds and exchange traded notes in these accounts. (Both ETFs and ETNs products are considered high-risk, volatile, and only suitable for sophisticated investors.)

The SEC said that Hallas had no reasonable grounds for recommending these investments to customers. Meantime, the latter were charged fees and commissions of about $128K. The net loss sustained over all the positions was about $170K.

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ServiceMesh Co-Founder Accused of Fraud
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against Eric Pulier, the co-founder of ServiceMesh (SMI) and a former IT executive at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). According to the regulator, Pulier bilked CSC of $98M related to its acquisition of SMI.

The SEC contends that Pulier bribed an ex-Commonwealth Bank of Australia VP and another ex-bank executive so that Commonwealth would go into contracts with CSC that would allow SMI to get a $98M earn-out payment from the former as part of the acquisition. This meant that the contracts had to satisfy a $20M revenue threshold prior to a specific date.

Meantime, claims the SEC, Pulier was the recipient of more than $30M of that $98M because he was a majority SMI shareholder. He allegedly used a nonprofit to funnel more than $2.5M to the two ex-Commonwealth Bank of Australia as kickbacks.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against former Alexander Capital brokers who are accused of making unsuitable recommendations that garnered them commissions while causing investors to sustain significant losses. All three men, Rocco Roveccio, William Gennity, and Laurence Torres, are based in New York.

Because there are costs associated with each transaction for the customer, the security’s price has to go up significantly during the short time it is in an account for even the smallest profit to be made. Instead, eleven customers lost $683K while the NY brokers made $280K and $206K, respectively, in fees and commissions. Some of the investors they bilked had little education and/or were inexperienced investors. In the SEC’s complaint against Gennity and Roveccio, the brokers are accused of recommending investments that required the “frequent buying and selling of securities” despite a lack of reasonable grounds to think that this would make money for their customers.

The two men allegedly engaged in churning in customers’ accounts, unauthorized trading, and hiding material information from them, including that the transaction expenses (markups, commissions, markdowns, fees, postage, and margin interest ) for the investment recommendations would most likely exceed any possible profits.

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SEC Charges SunTrust With Collecting Over $1.1M in Excess Mutual Fund Fees

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges accusing SunTrust Investment Services of collecting over $1.1M in unwarranted fees from mutual fund clients. The SunTrust Banks subsidiary will pay an over $1.1M penalty to resolve the regulator’s civil charges.

According to the regulator’s order, SunTrust Investment Services improperly recommended costlier mutual fund share classes to clients when less expensive shares of these funds were available. The SEC says this was a breach of the investment services firm’s fiduciary duty to take actions in the client’s best interests.

Financial Adviser Who Bilked Athletes, Including Mike Tyson, is Sentenced
Former SFX Financial Advisory Management Enterprises financial advisor Brian Ourand is sentenced to thirty years behind bars after he bilked a number of professional athletes, including former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, ex-NBA basketball players Glen Rice and Dikembe Mutombo, and others. Ourand must also pay back $1M of what he stole.

Not only is he accused of forging the pro athletes’ signatures on checks that he cashed but also of taking credit cards out against these clients’ accounts to cover his own spending, including restaurants, clothing, and other bills. SFX fired him in 2011.

In 2015, Ourand was charged with wire fraud, federal mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges. He pleaded guilty to one criminal count of wire fraud.

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In federal court in Boston, Howard Present, the former CEO and co-founder of F-Squared Investments Inc. is on trial over civil exchange-traded fund fraud charges brought against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Present is accused of lying about the firm’s flagship product, the AlphaSector model portfolio, to investors and making millions of dollars in the process.

According to the regulator, starting in 2008, Present touted the AlphaSector as having a successful track record going as far back as 2001. F-Squared claimed that this performance was based on a strategy developed by a multibillion dollar wealth manager when, in reality, it was based on an algorithm that had been applied to historical market information by the manager’s intern, who was a college student at a time. Also, the track record was hypothetical and not historical.

The regulator believes that there was a mistake in the hypothetical figures that caused a substantial inflation of investment performance that was used when creating marketing materials for the AlphaSector. The DEC contends that even though Present knew about the inaccuracies, he did not order a correction and continued to use the inflated performance numbers.

When F-Squared started marketing the strategy to possible clients, rather than stating that the potential performance of the strategy was set up in 2008, Present claimed that actual investment history had been used calculate the track record. A press release was even issued claiming that $100M in client money had been dedicated to the investment strategy for the past several years when the actual monetary figure for that was zero.

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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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Federal Judge Orders Tim Durham to Pay $1. 3M in Securities Fraud Case

Five years after he was convicted of securities fraud, businessman Tim Durham has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $1.3M in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil case against him. Durham bilked over 5,000 investors in his Ponzi Scam involving his company Fair Finance. He is serving 50 years behind bars.

The Commission had wanted the judge to order Durham to pay back over $200M in ill-gotten gains. Instead, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered him to pay a $130K penalty for each criminal conviction, of which there were 10. After Fair Finance shut down in 2009, its bankruptcy trustee repaid investors $18M.

Ex-ArthroCare CEO is Convicted in $750M Scam For a Second Time
Michael Baker, the ex-CEO of ArthroCare Corp., has been convicted once again in a $750M securities fraud. An earlier conviction for the same scheme was vacated last year by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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