Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

In federal court in Sherman, TX, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed an emergency action to halt a $22.7M mortgage investment scam involving Thurman P. Bryant, III and his Bryant United Capital Funding, Inc. According to the regulator’s complaint, Bryant and his firm raised about $22.7M from about 100 investors by making false promises, including telling them that the investments were free of risk and guaranteed 30% minimum yearly returns.

The SEC claims that Bryant told investors that his firm would fund the mortgages, which would be sold right away to third parties for a fixed fee. He allegedly informed them that their money would be left in secure escrow account as evidence of funds in order to obtain a credit line to cover the mortgage loans. Bryant and his firm are accused of violating the Securities act of 1933’s Section 17(a) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934’s Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

According to the Commission, since the start of this year alone, Bryant has raised about $1.4M from investors. So far, Bryant’s firm has paid about $16.8M as supposed investment return and also as referral fees to investors who’ve helped identify additional prospective investors.

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Financial Firm and Its CEO Settle Life Settlement Fraud Charges
The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Verto Capital Management and its CEO William Schantz III have settled civil charges accusing them of running a Ponzi-like scam involving life settlements. As part of the settlement, Verto Capital and Schantz will pay over $4M.

According to the regulator’s complaint, the two of them raised about $12.5M through promissory note sales that were supposed to pay for the firm’s purchase and sale of life settlements. The notes were sold mostly through insurance brokers in Texas.

Investors who were religious were the main target of the alleged fraud.They were allegedly told that that the securities were short-term investments that were at low risk of defaulting.

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Former UBS Broker is Barred form the Securities Industry

Ronald Broadstone, an ex-UBS (UBS) broker, has agreed to be barred from the securities industry. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is the one that brought the ban, accusing him of misusing and misappropriating customer monies, settling a customer case without telling his firm, and taking part in unauthorized trading.

According to the self-regulatory organization, Broadstone’s attorney testified that the former broker would not respond to more questions. His refusal to speak violated FINRA rule 8210.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has put out a disciplinary complaint against Walter Marino. The former broker worked for Legend Equities Corp. in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida at the time he allegedly facilitated variable annuities sales that were unsuitable for two of his older clients. According to the regulator, Marino recommended exchanges of non-qualified VAs to the customers without having reasonable grounds to guide them toward these investments.

FINRA said that Marino earned about $60K in commissions. Meantime, the customers lost over $82K because of surrender charges they were forced to pay and they did not benefit financially. Not only that but because Marino didn’t apply the tax-free exchange provision of the Internal Revenue Code, the customers ended up with substantial tax liabilities.

Now, the regulator wants Marino to disgorge his ill-gotten gains and pay the customers full restitution for the variable annuity fraud.

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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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