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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has awarded over $4.3M to investors in their elder financial fraud case against former First Allied Securities broker Anthony Diaz. The plaintiffs contend that he invested their retirement funds in high risk private placement investments that were unsuitable for them. They are alleging inadequate supervision, misrepresentation and omissions, unsuitability, fraud, and other violations.

Diaz is considered to be a rogue broker by the regulator, who barred him in 2015. He not only worked at 11 firms win 14 years, but also he appeared to have no problem getting another job whenever he was let go from a previous. Diaz’s BrokerCheck profile shows that he is named in 53 customer dispute and regulatory disclosures.

The arbitration award to the investors is over $1M in compensatory damages, more than $413K in legal fees, and $2.9M in punitive damages. They settled with First Allied Securities last year.

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BitConnect, an investment lending platform for Bitcoin, has suddenly announced that it is shuttering its lending and exchange operation immediately. The company said that its exchange platform would shut down in five days. In a post on its site, BitConnect said that moving forward, it would operate for “wallet service, news and educational purposes.”

The announcement caused the price of BitConnect Coins (BCC), which is its Bitcoin currency, to plunge by over 90%–from over $400/coin to about $17.25/coin. Now, its investors are left wondering what to do with their coins.

Some site users are claiming that even though the exchange for the BCCs was supposed to stay open throughout the week, they have been unable to process trades because they cannot access the exchange. CoinDesk reports that one investor sent an email, claiming over $400K in losses because of this.

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Two Brokers Barred After Not Appearing at FINRA Hearings
Guillermo Valladolid, an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, has been barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. According to the regulator, Valladolid did not show up at a hearing into whether, according to InvestmentNews, he “sold investments away from his employer” and neglected to disclose certain outside business activities.

Morgan Stanley terminated Vallodolid’s employment. Previous to that he worked with Merrill Lynch.

In a different FINRA case, the regulator barred another broker, Bradley C. Mascho, also after he did not appear at his hearing. Some of Mascho’s activities while at Western International Securities had come under question. The firm fired him last month, which is also when the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges against Mascho and Dawn Bennett of the Bennett Group Financial and DJP Holdings. Mascho was CFO of the latter.

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Investment Adviser Accused of Scamming Pro Athletes and Church Members Admits to Securities Fraud
Richard Wyatt Davis Jr., a North Carolina-based investment adviser,has pleaded guilty to tax evasion and securities fraud charges. Davis was indicted for securities fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion in 2017. He initially pleaded not guilty.

According to the criminal indictment, Davis used investor funds to repay other investors in Ponzi-like fashion, as well as to pay for vacation homes, a personal chef, and other lavish expenses. Investors were solicited at events attended for people who distrusted the banking system and the stock market.

Documents contend that Davis made misrepresentations to more than six dozen investors, costing them about $12.8M as a result. Among his victims were people he knew from church, as well as professional athletes. Of the money that Davis solicited, he paid back investors about $3.5M.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered the suspension trading in UBI Blockchain Internet Ltd.(UBIA) stock. The company’s stock rose over 900% last year in the wake of the popularity of digital currencies.

Now, the SEC has temporarily halted the sale and purchase of UBI BLockChain stock because of market activity that it describes as “unusual and unexplained” since at least November of last year involving the company’s Class A common stock.

It also has questions regarding the accuracy of claims that the company made in financial statements. Addressing the SEC’s move, UBI Blockchain CEO Tony Liu contended that his company, which touts blockchain technology, is not the same as bitcoin companies.

UBI Blockchain, which is based in Hong Kong, claims that it wants to utilize the decentralized-ledge technology of blockchain so that consumers can track the “original source” of a drug or food product. Two weeks ago, in a 3-to-1 trading split, the company’s market value hit over $1B. It’s current market value is more than $800M.

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In an Emergency Cease and Desist Order, the Texas State Securities Commissioner is demanding that BitConnect, which is based in the UK, stop a number of its investment programs, as well as its allegedly fraudulent sales of Bitcoin investments. According to the regulator, BitConnect sales agents are targeting prospective Texan investors, as well as investors in other parts of the US.

BitConnect issues its own currency, known as BitConnect Coins. As of earlier this month, the company was claiming that its market share for its cryptocurrency coins was $4.1B. It announced plans to issue up to 28 million coins.

According to the regulator’s order, BitConnect’s website BitConnect is an “open sourced, all-in-one Bitcoin and crypto-currency platform” that offers different investment opportunities. The site depicts BitConnect Coins as an “open source, peer-to-peer community-driven decentralized cryptocurrency” with which owners can “store and invest their wealth.”

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The SEC has filed a case accusing broker Brian Hirsch of illegally receiving over $1M in secret kickbacks in return for giving some customers favored access to “lucrative” initial public offerings. The regulators said that these customers made money because of the special treatment. Meantime, prosecutors in New Jersey have filed a parallel criminal case against Hirsch.

According to the SEC, Hirsch, who worked at two broker-dealers, disregarded policies and procedures and made “long-running” deals with specific customers, granted them bigger allocations of some of the public offerings that the firms were marketing. Advisor Hub reports that these two brokerage firms were Barclays Capital (BARC) and Stifel (SF).

As part of the deal, contends the regulator, a customer named Joseph Spera and another customer paid Hirsch cash kickbacks that were equivalent to a percentage of the trading profits they made for the offering stock allocated to them. Hirsch is accused of giving the two customers “preferential access to hundreds of IPOS and secondary public offerings.” These customers purportedly would usually sell their stock quickly so that they could make a “substantial profit.” This was at the expense of the firms’ other customers and the interests of issuers in raising funds from long-term investors.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CGMI) to pay $11.5M in restitution and fines to resolve charges accusing the firm of displaying “inaccurate research ratings” on over 1800 stocks—that’s more than 38% of the stock that CGMI covers. According to the self-regulatory organization, the result of the inaccurate ratings was that a lot of customers ended up buying shares they wouldn’t have purchased otherwise if the right information had been provided.

Citigroup settled the case without denying or admitting to wrongdoing. The alleged inaccurate ratings would have been issued between 2011 and 2015.

According to the self-regulatory organization, CGMI showed the inaccurate ratings not just to retail customers, but also to its brokers and supervisors. These inaccuracies were caused by errors in the firm’s electronic ratings data feed that it provides to its clearing firm. As a result: the wrong rating was displayed for certain securities, ratings for securities that CGMI did not cover were provided, and/or the ratings for securities that the firm did rate were not displayed at all. The research ratings on CGMI’s actual research reports, to which brokers had access, were not impacted by these mistakes.

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Two Investment Advisers Accused of $20M Investor Scam
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against investment advisors Ronald A. Fossum and Alonzo Cahoon. They are accused defrauding retail investors in an unregistered securities scam. According to the regulator, from about 3/2011 to 6/2016, Fossum raised over $20M from more than 100 investors via securities offerings in investment funds under his control or ownership, including the:

  • Accelerated Asset Group, LLC
  • Turnkey Investment Fund, LLC
  • Smart Money Secured Income Fund, LLC

Fossum is accused of misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of investors’ money to pay his own expenses, including living in a home owned by one of the fund’s free of rent. He also allegedly used investor funds to pay for international travel and federal taxes.

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The SEC has filed fraud charge against Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc. and its former CEO Ray C. Davis. According to the Commission, the Houston-based technology company, and Davis solicited over $28M from hundreds of investors, diverting over $7.8M to the latter’s personal use.

Between 1/2013 and 7/2015, investors targeted in the alleged Texas securities scam were solicited for funds and their involvement in seven equity securities offerings. “Material misrepresentations and misleading statements” were allegedly made to them about: how investor proceeds would be used, executive compensation, operating costs, and related party transactions.

The regulator’s complaint, claims that Behavioral Recognition Systems and Davis lied more than once in order to get investors to give them their money. Offering documents claimed that investor money would go toward “working capital,” “growth, “mezzanine funding,” and “general corporate purposes” for Behavioral Recognition Systems. Instead, contends the SEC, Davis used shell companies under his control to divert about $11M of investor money for his own use–$7.8M of that money was allegedly diverted during the period at issue. Bogus invoices from the shell companies for services purportedly rendered were then generated to conceal the fraud.
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