Articles Posted in Senior Investors

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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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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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed senior investor fraud-related charges against Houston pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church and financial planner Gregory Alan Smith. The regulator is accusing them of defrauding older investors of over $1M through the sale of pre-Revolutionary Chinese bond interests.

Smith runs the Smith Financial Group. The SEC permanently barred him from associating with brokerage-firms in 2010 after he was accused of misappropriating investor money. Caldwell is senior pastor at reportedly one of the biggest Protestant churches in the US.

According to the regulator, in 2013 and 2014, the two men solicited older investors in an attempt to sell them bonds that they claimed were valued at billions of dollars when, in truth, the bonds were “collectible memorabilia” that lacked any “meaningful investment value.”

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Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has filed an administrative complaint accusing private equity fund ARO Equity LLC, Timothy James Alcott, and Thomas David Renison of running a Ponzi scam that bilked investors of over $5.8M. Most of their victims were senior investors in their 70’s and 80’s who were allegedly promised 8-12% yearly returns over three-to-five years for their purchase of mostly promissory notes.

According to the Massachusetts Regulator’s complaint, Renison, Alcott, and ARO Equity invested just half of investors’ funds, with most investments made sustaining substantial losses. They allegedly ran their scam out of a trailer park in the city of Peabody despite listing their address at the One International Place Tower in Boston. Meantime, the two men have purportedly paid themselves more than $1M since their alleged Ponzi scam began.

Renison, who allegedly made $710K, was barred from the securities industry by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014 for promissory note fraud involving a client. He was ordered by a jury to pay a $1.4M judgment in that matter. A criminal charge for conspiring to commit wire fraud was brought against him in a parallel case that was dismissed following his cooperation and testimony against a co-conspirator.

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The US state of Massachusetts is investigating Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) over whether the firm engaged in unsuitable recommendations, inappropriate referrals, and other actions related to its sales of certain investment products to customers. The news of the probe comes after Wells Fargo disclosed that it was evaluating whether inappropriate recommendations and referrals were made related to 401(K) rollovers, alternative investments, and the referral of customers from its brokerage unit to its own investment and fiduciary services business.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said it would examine Wells Fargo’s own internal probe and wants to make sure that Massachusetts investors who were impacted by “unsuitable recommendations” would be “made whole.” He noted that while moving investors toward wealth management accounts brings “more revenues to firms,” these accounts are “not suitable for all investors.”

As Barrons reports, referring clients to managed accounts tend to earn fee-based advisors significantly more. The article goes on to note that Galvin is looking into the use of managed accounts related to the US Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, which includes best practices standards for the protection of consumers. The Massachusetts regulator recently referred to that same rule when the state became the first one to file such related charges in its case against Scottrade over sales contests. In that case, Galvin accused the broker-dealer of improper sales practices, including contests that offered incentives to agents who targeted retiree clients and prospective retiree clients in particular.

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FINRA Panel Orders Hilliard Lyons to Pay Damages to Elderly Client
In a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration case, Hilliard Lyons is ordered to pay 84-year-old Elizabeth Nickens $445K in damages for losses she sustained from alleged churning and unauthorized trading. Nickens claims that advisor Christopher Bennett made transactions without her authorization in her retirement accounts, and her assets were allocated in such a way that were not suitable for her or investment goals.

Nickens, as an older investor, had a low risk tolerance and was more interested in preserving her funds. Yet, according to her attorney, more than half of her average account equity was in four stocks. She lost over $300K.

Hilliard Lyons is accused of not properly supervising the trades. The firm and Bennett deny the senior financial fraud allegations.
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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Jeffrey Palish, an ex-Wells Fargo (WFC) broker in the wake of allegations of senior investor fraud. The regulator is accusing him of stealing over $180K from an elderly client with no plans or means of paying her back.

Palish was let go by the firm last year after an internal probe found that he had made misstatements about these transactions. He was arrested last week in New Jersey and charged with theft by deception involving over $75K.

According to prosecutors, Parish may have stolen at least $600K from elderly clients and failed to pay back a $100K loan from two clients. NorthJersey.com reports that Palish took clients’ money by selling their stock holdings and putting the funds from those sales into a bank account in which he deposited checks from clients. He also is accused of making more than three dozen unauthorized wire transfers of about $300K in total to pay his credit card bills.

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Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has filed charges against investment adviser Thomas Riquier for allegedly defrauding investors of at least $1M in a real estate scam that has gone on for more than a quarter of a century. According to the administrative complaint, Riquier solicited funds from people, mostly older investors (some of them his firm’s clients), to buy property that was then to be sold at a profit. His employer, United Planners Financial Services of America, is charged with failure to supervise.

In its investment adviser fraud case, the regulator claims that investors’ money was used instead to buy property already belonging to Riquier. The property has yet to be improved or sold. It has not rendered any returns for investors. The state regulator notes that because the alleged scam has been going on for so long—26 years—a number of investors have passed away. The rest of them have yet to make money from the venture.

Riquier is also accused of soliciting over $830K in private loans from clients. Galvin said that this violates federal and state laws.

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Beaumont, TX Investment Adviser is Suspended for 90 Days
In a Disciplinary Order, the Texas State Securities Board suspended former LPL Financial LLC (LPLA) investment adviser Jason N. Anderson for 90 days. The state contends that while registered with that firm, Anderson touted an active-trading program to clients that charged them unreasonable fees, which included commissions to Anderson, as well as trading costs.

For example, one client paid costs that were approximately 30% of “the value of the average equity securities” in the client’s account. The Texas regulator said that the trading program would have had to make “extraordinary returns” for investors to “offset” such fees or even, in some cases, allow them to merely “break-even.”

The order called the commissions and trading costs “inequitable practices” that violated the Texas Securities Act. The state accused Anderson of not having reasonable grounds for believing that the trading program would be appropriate for these clients.

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Woodbridge to Appoint New Board to Run the Property Developer, Will Pay for Investor Fraud Lawyers
Woodbridge Group of Companies and the US Securities and Exchange Commission have come to an agreement that a New Board of Managers will be appointed to oversee the bankrupt property developer. The company, which is accused of running a $1.2B Ponzi scam, will pay for legal representation for its investors that continue to grapple with losses they may have sustained in the alleged fraud. Some 8,400 investors gave their money to Woodbridge.

Woodbridge owner Robert Shapiro is accused of owing over $961M to investors, many of them elderly investors, who purchased securities from the company while under the impression that they’d be guaranteed up to 8% interest. Investors were told that their money would be lent out to companies in exchange for up to 15% interest when, in fact, contends the SEC, these developers were entities that Shapiro himself controlled.

Shapiro, who is accused of taking at least $21M of investors’ funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle, denies the SEC’s allegations.

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