Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Matthew Fox and his Wayne Energy LLC with securities fraud. The regulator brought its Texas securities case in federal district court in the city of Sherman.

According to the Commission’s complaint, Fox raised about $950K for a joint venture that was supposedly involved in reworking and recompleting an oil and gas well. However, contends the SEC, Fox raised the funds by recycling offering documents from another oil and gas company that he previously ran (that company failed) rather than customizing the paperwork to this new venture and its specific risks.

Prior to setting up Wayne Energy in 2015, Fox had run Frisco Exploratory Company and it is the latter’s offering documents that he used. The Commission claims that the offering documents made a false statement, which was that Wayne Energy would not commingle its own money with the joint venture’s funds. The documents also falsely stated that the oil and gas company was licensed as an operator with the Texas Railroad Commission.

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Former Wells Fargo and LPL Financial Broker Receives 41-Month Prison Term for Elder Financial Fraud
Robert N. Tricarico, an ex-broker for both Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) and LPL Financial (LPLA), will serve 41 months behind bars and pay restitution of over $1.2M after he pleaded guilty to elder financial fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought a civil case against Tricarico, has barred him from the securities industry.

Court documents note that from 1/2010 to 6/2013, Tricarico was the financial adviser for a sick and elderly investor. He misappropriated over $1.1M from her by writing a number of checks to himself without the client’s consent, misappropriated checks written to her, liquidated her coin collection, and used her funds for his own expenses.

He has also admitted to bilking two other victims of $20K when he falsely represented that their money would go toward a business venture. He kept their money for himself.

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Credit Suisse Unit and Ex-Investment Adviser Settle SEC Charges, Pay $8M Fine
Credit Suisse AG (CS) unit Credit Suisse Securities and Ex-investment adviser Sanford Michael Katz have settled SEC charges accusing them of improperly investing the funds of clients in “Class A” mutual fund shares instead of “institutional” shares that were less costly. According to the regulator, the firm and Katz did not adequately disclose the conflict of interest presented by choosing the Class A investment, which allowed them to profit more at investors’ expense. They are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties.

The SEC’s orders state that Credit Suisse made about $3.2M in 12b-1 fees that could have been avoided. According to the Commission, about $2.5M of those fees came from Katz’s clients. The regulator said that the firm did not put into place policies and procedures to prevent fiduciary breaches.

Both Credit Suisse and Katz settled the SEC charges without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings. Together, they have to pay over $3.2M of disgorgement, over $577K of prejudgment interest, and an over $4.1M penalty. A fair fund has been set up to compensate clients.

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In federal court in Texas, Charles Banks, the former financial adviser to ex-NBA star Tim Duncan, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Banks admitted to misleading Duncan into guaranteeing a $6M loan to a company that had financial connections to the ex-advisor.

Duncan, who retired from professional basketball in 2016, claims that he lost more than $20M through deals he was involved in because of Banks. The two first started working together in 1997 when Banks was employed with CSI Capital Management Inc. and Duncan was an NBA rookie. After Banks left the firm he continued working with Banks.

Banks encouraged Duncan to lend a company, Gameday Entertainment, $7.5M. The company then obtained a $6M bank loan using what Duncan contends was his forged signature. Banks was Gameday’s chairman at the time.

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A bipartisan bill introduced in the US Senate wants to let the US Securities and Exchange Commission order violators of securities laws to pay much higher sanctions. If turned into law, the legislation would allow the regulator impose up to $1M as a penalty on individuals for every violation of the most serious offenses. The per penalty violation maximum for financial firms would be raised to $10M. 

Currently, individuals cannot be ordered to pay a more than $181,071 penalty and the maximum for firms is $905,353. The SEC would have the option of tripling the cap on the maximum for repeat offenders who have been held civilly or criminally liable for securities fraud within the last five years. 

At the moment, the SEC can calculate penalties that are the equivalent of the gross amount that were the ill-gotten gains only if the case is heard in federal court. The regulator cannot do so if it deals with the case administratively. The bipartisan bill would allow the regulator to assess such penalties in-house. 

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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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