Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

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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Jon S. Corzine, the former head of MF Global Inc. has arrived at a securities settlement with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission in which he will pay a $5M penalty for his involvement in the firm’s illegal use of nearly $1B in customer money and for not properly supervising the way these funds were handled. A federal judge has approved the deal.

The regulator sued Corzine in 2013 and he must now pay the civil penalty out of his own funds rather than have an insurer cover the costs. Also part of the deal, Corzine has agreed to a permanent bar from heading up a futures broker or registering with the CFTC. This means that he will no longer be allowed to trade other people’s funds in the future industry unless the trades are below specific threshold limits.

Corzine’s settlement with the SEC comes after he’d resolved most of the private litigation against him related to MF Global. Investors and the industry were flummoxed when the almost $1B in customer couldn’t be accounted for. Fortunately a trustee has since recovered the missing funds for the investors, which are both individuals and hedge funds, to whom the money belonged. The money, which were segregated customer funds, was inappropriately used to fund the futures commission merchant’s proprietary operations and that of its affiliates, pay FCM customers for withdrawals involving customer funds, and pay brokerage firm securities customers.

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An investor who is retired and suffering from health issues is seeking $1M from Morgan Stanley (MS). The investor, a former inventor, claims that the broker-dealer did not properly supervise the financial adviser who handled his multi-million dollar account.  He filed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claim and is accusing the firm of breach of fiduciary, negligence, unauthorized trading, excessive trading, fraudulent inducement, and significant tax liability.

The investor believes that over-concentation in risky sectors and over trading in too many individual stocks occurred, causing significant damage to his retirement funds. Among the investments that were involved were oil and gas investments, including Master Limited Partnerships. The claimant claims that Morgan Stanley hid the risks involved, even as the financial adviser engaged in a purportedly deceptive investment strategy. The result was that the investor’s account became heavily concentrated in risky investments.

The alleged broker negligence also purportedly caused tax consequences for the investor while benefiting Morgan Stanley with transactions costs of over $1M. The unsuitable taxable gains that were created by  led to investment losses for the investor, even as the broker claimed that the investor’s account was profiting.

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Halliburton Co. (HAL.N) has agreed to settle a securities fraud class action case for $100M. The case, brought in Dallas, accuses the oil field services providers of misrepresenting its possible liability in asbestos lawsuits and the benefits it expected from certain construction contracts, as well as a merger from nearly twenty years ago.

Lead plaintiff Erica P. John Fund Inc. filed the complaint in 2002 after the US Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating Halliburton’s accounting for revenue made from certain construction projects. The securities case accused the company of misleading investors when it purportedly understated its liabilities in the asbestos cases, overstated revenue from construction, and inflated the benefits of the Halliburton-Dresser Industries merger.

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney, who was chief executive of the company during the period at issue, settled the regulator’s charges against him for $7.5M in 2004. However, the lawsuit against the company has gone on for years.

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Two Men Are Accused of Scamming Indiana Investors in More than $3.5M Ponzi Scam 
Prosecutors are charging two Indiana men with securities fraud involving a Ponzi scam. They claim that Richard E. Gearhart and his business partner George R. McKown sold securities to investors who moved their annuities, pensions, cash, and 401ks to invest in Asset Preservation Specialists Inc. The investors were purportedly promised a guaranteed return rate.

The authorities say that McKown and Gearhart were not registered with the state of Indiana or the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell these securities.

It was in 2013 that a number of Gearhart’s clients filed complaints against him after he filed for Chapter 13 federal bankruptcy. They contended that their losses collectively totaled over $2M. Court records, however, indicate that the two men allegedly stole over $3.5M from over two dozen investors. between ’08 and ’13.

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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 Commodity Futures Trading Commission says that Convergent Wealth Advisors must pay a civil penalty of $800K related to a commodity pool run by its former CEO David Zier. Zier committed suicide in 2014. That was also the year that a regulatory probe was begun around the private fund ZAM LLC that Zier operated.

Convergent compliance personnel staff were the ones who noticed that there were inconsistencies in some ZAM performance reports and account statements. In its securities case, the CFTC said that from 12/2010 and until Zier’s passing, there were $2.9M in fraudulent solicitations involving the private fund.

According to the CFTC, Zier put out false statements and made fraudulent representations to clients about the pool, which he ran as an outside business activity while working as an agent for the registered investment adviser. Zier purportedly represented ZAM as profitable even though it had sustained significant losses. He also allegedly made up performance data, which he gave to investors, to hide the losses.

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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 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred ex-JP Turner & Co. broker Anthony Mastroianni Jr. for allegedly churning an account belonging to an older customer. Mastroianni has not denied or admitted to the regulator’s findings and he did not appear in front of FINRA to provide testimony in this case.

According to the regulator, from ’11 to ’13, Mastroianni took part in churning or excessive trading in the account of this customer, which was maintained at JP Turner and later at Alexander Capital when the broker was affiliated with the brokerage firms. He also allegedly borrowed $90K from the same customer and made another four transactions without letting either JP Turner or Alexander Capital know and/or getting their approval.

Mastroianni’s BrokerCheck reports notes that there are seven disclosure events in which he has been named, including two customer disputes that are still pending.

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