Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

Registered Investment Adviser and Broker Convicted in $15M Pump-and-Dump Scam
A federal jury has found Sheik F. Kahn, a Nevada RIA, and Christopher Cervino, a New Jersey broker, guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in an over $15M stock scam that targeted 100 investors. Kahn also was convicted of aggravated identity theft crimes and investment adviser fraud. Both she and Cervino were previously affiliated with New York-based firm Primary Capital.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the pump-and-dump scam involved VGTEL (VGTL), a publicly traded over-the-counter company. The securities scam was led by Edward Durante, who pleaded guilty last year to a number of crimes, including securities fraud, conspiracy, perjury, and money laundering involving VGTL.

Cervino and Kahn are accused of artificially inflating the stock price of VGTel from 25 cents/share to up to $1.90/share in 2012 and they also inflated trading volume, raising their ability to bring in private investments in the stock.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Panel has ruled that Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) must pay investor Anthony J. Pryor $357K related to purportedly unsuitable housing and energy investments. In his securities fraud claim, Pryor alleged negligent misrepresentation, negligent supervision, breach of fiduciary, and other causes. Wells Fargo denies Pryor’s allegations.

His advisor, Jeff Wilson, who was not named as a party in the securities case, has three customer disputes on his BrokerCheck record. One of the other claims that was settled for $250K also allegedly involving unsuitable investments.

Unsuitable Investments
Not every investment is suitable for every investor. Some investments may too be risky for certain investors or are not in alignment with their investment goals or financial needs. For example, many older retail investors that are about to retire will likely require a more conservative investment plan that a much younger, single investor.

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FINRA Suspends Broker For Accepting $105K in Gifts
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has suspended Adam C. Smith from the securities industry for a year. The former Merrill Lynch broker, who was fired from the firm, will pay a $10K fine.

According to the self-regulatory organization, while at Merrill Lynch, Smith and his wife accepted $26K in checks from a couple whom he represented. The money was to help fund the education of Smith’s children. When one of the client’s passed away, the remaining spouse gifted Smith and his wife another $53K, again to pay for their kids’ education. Smith received $26K from other clients.

Although he is settling, Smith is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s findings.

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Susan C. Daub and William D. Allen have each been sentenced to six years in prison for running a Ponzi scam that involved issuing loans to professional athletes. Allen, a former NFL player with the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, and Daub have been both the subject of a criminal case and an Securities and Exchange Commission case over this matter.

The two of them were arrested in 2015 on criminal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, and charging money related to a specified illegal act. Along with their Capital Financial Partners Enterprises, Capital Financial Holdings, and Capital Financial Partners, the two of them raised nearly $32M from investors, who were told that they were providing loans professional athletes but would get back their money in full along with interest when the loans were repaid.

In its civil case, SEC said that Daub and Allen only advanced about $18M to the athletes even though they’d raised over $31M from investors. The regulator said that from 7/2012 through 2/2015, even though the defendants had only gotten back a little over $13M in loan repayments from the pro athletes, they paid back about $20M to investors by using investors’ funds to make up for the almost $7M deficit.

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Eight People Implicated in $39M Penny Stock Fraud Get Prison Sentences, Must Pay Restitution
In Ohio, eight people were sentenced to prison terms ranging from almost two years to a dozen years for their involvement in a penny stock scam that caused investors to suffer $39M in losses. One of the defendants, Zirk de Maison, received the 12-year sentence. He was ordered to pay $39.1M in restitution. The other defendants also were ordered to pay restitution in lower amounts.

According to prosecutors, the defendants conspired to bilk investors and potential ones in a number of public issuers. They did this by putting out millions of shares and artificially controlling the price and volume of the shares that were traded. This was accomplished through undisclosed commissions paid to brokers, boiler room operators, and promoters who got investors to invest, as well as through the fraudulent concealment of ownership interests in the companies in which the funds were invested.

In some instances, brokers and ex-brokers were paid illegal kickbacks of sometimes up to 50%. Clients were not told of these payments. The co-conspirators used most of investors’ money to enrich themselves. Some of the defendants were boiler room owners.

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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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Chicago Hedge Fund Manager Gets Over Four Years in $1.8M Fraud
Clayton Cohn is sentenced to more than four years behind bars and he will pay $1.55M in restitution for targeting military veterans in a $1.8M hedge fund fraud. Cohn is an ex-US Marine. He pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him.

Cohn is accused of pretending to be a successful hedge fund manager to persuade clients to invest with his Marketaction Capital Management. Of the over $1.8M that was invested,he lost more than $1.5M and spent at least $400K on his luxury lifestyle and business investments.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission had brought civil charges against him in 2013 when they accused Cohn of soliciting investors through his Veterans Financial Education Network. The non-profit was supposed to help veterans handle their money. Instead, he diverted some of their funds toward himself. The regulator stayed its case against him following the federal indictments. Now, the civil fraud charges will proceed.

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Citigroup is Accused of Overcharging At Least 60 Investment Advisory Clients
Citigroup Global Markets (C) will pay $18.3M to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the firm of overbilling clients and misplacing client contracts. According to the regulator’s order, at least 60,000 investment advisory clients were overcharged about $18M in unauthorized fees because Citigroup did not confirm the accuracy of the billing rates in its computer systems compared to the fees noted in client contracts and other documents. The firm also purportedly improperly collected fees even when clients suspended their accounts. The SEC says that the billing mistakes took place over a 15-year period.

The regulator also contends that the investment advisory firm has been unable to locate about 83,000 advisory contracts. Their absence made it impossible for Citigroup to correctly validate whether the fees that clients were billed are the same ones that they negotiated.

The SEC believes that affected clients paid Citigroup about $3.2M in excess fees.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed an administrative case against Windsor Street Capital and John D. Telfer, its ex-anti-money laundering officer. The regulator’s enforcement division claims that the New York-based broker dealer did not file Suspicious Activity Reports for $24.8M of suspect transactions, including those connected to an alleged pump-and-dump scam.

The regulator claims that Windsor Street Capital, at the time known as Meyers Associates LP, and Telfer should have been aware of the suspect circumstances involving a lot of these transactions and conducted a probe—in particular, into transactions involving William Goode and Raymond Barton. These men are microcap stock financiers accused of running a multi-million dollar pump-and=dump scam.

The SEC has filed separate charges against them, as well as against Kenneth Manzo, Matthew Briggs, and Justin Sindelman. The five of them are accused of acquiring shares of dormant shell companies that were supposed to be part of the dietary supplement industry, falsely marketing products and news related to the company, and then dumping the shares onto the market for investors to buy at inflated rates.

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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 

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