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Securities and Exchange Commission v. Allen Ross Smith, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-192 (D.N.H. May 2, 2014)

SEC Charges Florida Lawyer in Connection with Multi-Million Dollar Prime Bank Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced that it charged Florida attorney Allen Ross Smith, a sole practitioner, with violating the anti-fraud and securities offering provisions of the federal securities laws for his role in an advance fee investment scheme involving prime bank transactions and overseas debt instruments. The scheme was orchestrated by Switzerland-based Malom Group AG, a company named with an acronym for “Make A Lot Of Money,” through individuals in Zurich and Las Vegas. Smith acted as Malom’s attorney as well as its escrow agent and “paymaster.”

According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, Smith, leveraging his title and position as an attorney, made several false and misleading statements to investors. These statements concerned Malom’s financial strength and history of success, Smith’s familiarity with Malom and its principals, and the status of transactions from which Malom would repay investors who lost all their funds. In making these misstatements, Smith repeated what he was told by Malom and its agents and did nothing to verify their claims. At least three investors entered into transactions with Malom after having received Smith’s misstatements about Malom. These investors collectively lost $2.1 million.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Smith assisted Malom by allowing it to use his attorney escrow account to collect investor funds, and then by following Malom’s direction to distribute those funds to individuals, including many with no connection to the contemplated transactions, located in the United States and abroad. Smith received and distributed approximately $2.44 million in investor funds at Malom’s behest. Finally, the complaint alleges that Smith offered and sold unregistered securities by, among other actions, making several required certifications regarding Malom to investors as part of a securities offering that was intended to help New Hampshire-based USA Springs, Inc. emerge from bankruptcy. As a result of that fraudulent offering, the federal bankruptcy court for the District of New Hampshire entered a $60 million judgment against Malom in 2012. In re USA Springs, Inc., 1:08-bk-11816 (Bankr. D.N.H.).

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Smith violated Section 17(a) and Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and aided and abetted violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest thereon, and civil penalties against Smith.

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