Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against investment adviser Amrit J.S. Chahal, who founded Kane Capital investment Group, LLC. Chahal is accused of using his company to solicit about $1.4M from about 50 people, some of them friends and family members. Now, the regulator wants a permanent injunction, penalties, and disgorgement.

According to the SEC’s securities fraud complaint, from at least 2/2015, Chahal targeted prospective investor by telling him he was a seasoned trader who could make clients “above-market returns” by employing a trading strategy whose risks were low. In truth, contends the Commission, Chahal had no previous substantive experience in the securities industry or in trading securities for others.

Investors gave Chahal their money with the understanding that he would use the funds to buy and sell futures, options, and commodities. He told them they would have to pay a $2.5% yearly fee and a performance-based fee that was 10% of an investor’s returns that went beyond a yearly 30% return rate. Chahal also falsely claimed that Kane Capital employed the most current software to help it garner the “highest possible profit” from every investment, with a focus on choosing investments that were high-yield and low-risk. In truth, said the Commission, Chahal “traded risky options and margins,” as well as sold and purchased commodities and futures.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against Two Texas companies and their principals accusing them of senior financial fraud and running a $2.4M Ponzi scam. The regulator brought its complaint in the US District Court for the Southern District of Houston Division.

The SEC contends that from ’10 to ’17, Clifton E. Stanley and his The Lifepay Group, LLC allegedly persuaded at least 30 older people to invest about $2.4M in retirement savings—approximately $1.3M of which he is accused of spending on his own country club memberships, travel, general living expenses, and entertainment bills. Stanley and Lifepay purportedly did this by making empty promises and touting significant investment returns of up to 36% annually. Many of Stanley’s alleged targets were investors in their 80’s and 90’s who lived in Texas and Louisiana.

In Ponzi scam fashion, investors received $1.1M of “returns” on their investments, which were actually funds that came from later investors and not returns at all. Meantime, investments were touted as “safe” and were supposedly to go toward real estate projects that would make money.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has announced another whistleblower award, this one for over $2.2M. The whistleblower, an ex-insider of a company, had initially reported the information resulting in a successful SEC enforcement action to another federal agency before going to the SEC.

Under the Exchange Act Rule 21F-4(b)(7), the SEC will treat information that a whistleblower has given to another agency first as if it were submitted to the regulator at the same time, as long as the information is provided to the Commission within 120 days. When initially, the whistleblower voluntarily gave the information to the other federal agency, the latter “referred the matter” to the SEC, which conducted a probe. The whistleblower then gave the SEC the same information that was shared with the other agency.

SEC Office Whistleblower Chief Jane Norberg noted how this latest award is a prime example of how when even if a whistleblower provides the information to another agency first, he/she may still be eligible for an SEC whistleblower award as long as that same information is shared with the Commission within the safe harbor period and satisfies the other requirements for qualifying for the award. To date, the regulator has awarded 54 whistleblowers over $264M.

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In a Commodity Futures Trading Commission case, a judge has ordered former church Pastor Wesley Allen Brown, Edwards Rubin, and their Maverick International Inc. to pay approximately $8.6M combined in civil penalties and restitution. The defendants are accused of commodity pool fraud, commodity futures fraud, and federal commodity law violations.

A summary judgment order was also issued against Brown, who is serving time in prison for securities fraud and other offenses. Rubin is his brother-in-law and the president of Maverick.

According to the CFTC’s Complaint, issued in 2015, the defendants took part in a scam to solicit money for a supposed commodity pool trading futures contracts and precious metals. Brown is accused of abusing his position as pastor to influence church members to invest. Many of his targets were older investors/churchgoers. The regulator claims that the defendants misappropriated over $2M by soliciting the public for commodity futures contract trading.

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Man Accused of Targeting Religious Congregation Members Admits to $13M Fraud
Sung “Laurence” Hong has pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud, as well as to pretending to be an investment adviser so he could bilk clients of almost $13M. His plea agreement states that Hong mostly targeted members of religious organizations.

This is not the first time Hong that was caught for investor fraud. He served three years in prison after defrauding a neighbor of about $800K. Now, he may end up back in jail for decades.

SEC Files Case Against Man Accused in $250K Ponzi Scam
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against Niket Shah, who is accused of stealing over $250K from coworkers and friends in a Ponzi scam. The regulator’s case comes in the wake of complaints brought by investors.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Wedbush Securities Inc. The regulator is accusing the brokerage firm of not supervising registered representative Timary Delorme, 59, and disregarding warning signs that she was involved in a pump-and-dump fraud that targeted retail investors. Delorme has settled the SEC’s charges against her.

According to the SEC, Delorme took part in certain trades to manipulate the stocks. She received benefits, which were paid to her spouse, for getting customers to invest in microcap stocks that were part of a pump-and-dump fraud run by Izak Zirk Engelbrecht, who also has been subject to civil, as well as criminal charges. Engelbrecht, previously called Izak Zirk de Maison before adopting his wife’s last name, is accused of running the scam that involved microcap company Gepco Ltd.

Also, Delorme and her husband are accused of selling shares for Engelbrecht and sending him the money for the sales while she was paid a commission. This purportedly allowed Engelbrecht to hide the sales.

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Fyre Festival Founder Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud and Must Pay Back Investors
Billy McFarland, the founder of the failed Fyre Festival who pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, must may pay back millions of dollars to investors whom he bilked. In Manhattan federal court, McFarland acknowledged that he received more than $26M in investor funds for the Bahamas festival that promised catered dining, luxury accommodations, and renowned performers. Instead, attendees were greeted with no food or tent accommodations.

Billboard reports that eventually prepackaged sandwiches were served, local musicians performed, and the festival was postponed even though it had already begun. Travelers who headed back home encountered rescheduled and delayed flights. Many festival employees went unpaid.

The FBI arrested McFarland last summer. He has since admitted that he solicited investors using bogus documents touting financial holdings that he didn’t possess.

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Direct Services LLC and Voya Investment LLC, two Voya Holdings Inc. investment adviser subsidiaries, will pay about $3.6M to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of failing to make certain disclosures related to securities lending. Of that amount, over $2M will go straight to mutual funds that were impacted.

The two investment advisers worked with a number of “insurance-dedicated mutual funds” that insurers affiliated with Voya Holdings and Direct Services offer to life insurance and annuity customers. The two advisers lent fund-held securities to certain parties. They then called back the securities so that the insurer affiliates would get a tax benefit. These same affiliates were record shareholders for the funds’ shares. Meantime, this led to the funds and their investors losing income while not getting to avail of the tax benefit.

According to SEC Enforcement Division Asset Management Co-Chief Anthony S. Kelly, the mutual funds and its investors were not notified that they would be losing money in order for the affiliates to get this tax benefit. The regulator said that Voya advisors did not disclose that this conflict of interest existed.

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Valor Capital Asset Management LLC and its owner, Texas-based investment adviser Robert Mark Magee, have settled US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of defrauding investors by engaging in cherry picking. As part of the settlement, Magee is banned from the securities industry and will pay over $715K.

The SEC contends that while trading securities in the firm’s omnibus account, Magee would wait to allocate the trades until after watching their performances throughout the day. He would then allocate a disproportionate amount of the more profitable trades to his accounts while sending the trades that were not profitable to his clients. This allowed him to profit at cost to clients. The SEC believes that his ill-gotten gains from cherry picking was over $505K.

For example, notes the SEC, the way in which Magee traded and allocated El Pollo Loco Holdings is “representative” of how he allegedly engaged in cherry picking. For five trading days in a row, trades in LOCO that were profitable went to his own account. When the price went down on the sixth day, he allocated the shares to six Valor client accounts instead of selling the shares at a loss.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Ameriprise Financial Services (AMP). The regulator is accusing the brokerage firm and investment adviser of recommending to retail retirement account customers that they purchase mutual fund shares that charged higher fees. Ameriprise purportedly failed to employ sales charge waivers when applicable.

The Commission’s order contends that the broker-dealer neglected to determine when certain retirement account customers qualified for mutual fund share classes that were not as costly. Instead, the firm would recommend and sell the more costly mutual fund shares even when the less pricey options were available. Ameriprise is accused of not letting these customers know that the firm would make more from the costly mutual fund shares even as their overall investment returns were harmed.

The SEC said that about 1,971 customer accounts paid nearly $1.8M in up-front sales fees that were not warranted, costlier ongoing fees, “contingent deferred sales charges,” and other expenses because of the way that Ameriprise handled the recommendation and sale of mutual funds to retirement account clients. The firm is cooperating with the regulator and has paid back customers that were affected with interest. Retirement account customers eligible for the less expensive mutual fund share classes have been moved to those classes free of charge.

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