Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement Actions 2013

South Florida Elder Abuse Insurance and Annuity Fraud and Misrepresentation Attorney Russell L. Forkey, Esq.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently charged a self-described institutional trader in Colorado with defrauding elderly investors into making purported investments in government-secured bonds as he used their money to pay his mortgage.

The SEC alleges that Gary C. Snisky of Longmont, Colo., primarily targeted retired annuity holders by using insurance agents to sell interests in his company Arete LLC, which posed as a safe and more profitable alternative to an annuity. Investors were told their funds would be used to purchase government-backed agency bonds at a discount, and Snisky as an institutional trader would use the bonds to engage in overnight banking sweeps. However, Snisky did not purchase bonds or conduct any such trading, and he misappropriated approximately $2.8 million of investor funds to pay commissions to his salespeople and make personal mortgage payments.

Florida Boiler Room, Penny Stock (Low Priced) and Ponzi Scheme FINRA Arbitration and State and Federal Court Litigation Attorney:

The Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) Obtains Final Judgment against Defendants Charged with Perpetrating $35 Million International Boiler Room Scheme

Recnetly, the Commission announced that the United States District Court for the Central District of California entered a final, settled judgment against defendants Nicholas Louis Geranio, The Good One, Inc., and Kaleidoscope Real Estate, Inc. for their roles in a $35 million scheme to manipulate the market and to profit from the issuance and sale of certain U.S. companies’ stock through offshore boiler rooms.

Security and Exchange Commission Obtains Summary Judgment against Defendants Charged With Defrauding Investors in Fictitious Offering

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the SEC’s motion for summary judgment against all primary defendants and certain relief defendants in a civil action arising from a prime bank investment scheme that defrauded at least 13 investors out of more than $2 million from August 2010 to November 2011. Pursuant to the court’s ruling and judgment issued on August 26, 2013, the court permanently enjoined Washington D.C. attorney Brynee K. Baylor, her law firm Baylor & Jackson, P.L.L.C., and their former “client” The Milan Group, Inc. from violations of the antifraud and other securities law provisions, and from engaging in similar investment schemes. The court also required these defendants to pay disgorgement and penalties, required the Estate of Frank L. Pavlico to pay disgorgement, and barred Baylor from acting as an officer or director of any public company. The court required relief defendants Patrick T. Lewis and The Julian Estate to disgorge illegally obtained investor funds. The court granted in part or denied summary judgment against two other relief defendants, but declined in September 2013 to reconsider that ruling.

The SEC’s complaint, filed on November 30, 2011, alleged that Pavlico and Baylor operated a prime bank scheme, offering investors risk-free returns of up to 20 times the original investment within as few as 45 days through the purported “lease” and “trading” of foreign bank instruments, including “standby letters of credit” and “bank guarantees,” in highly complex transactions with unidentified parties and secretive international “trading platforms.” However, the bank instruments and trading programs were entirely fictitious. As the complaint alleged, Pavlico and Baylor provided investors with phony contracts and legal documents, digitally-created computer screen shots, and copies of fictitious foreign bank instruments as purported proof of the ongoing success of the transactions. Baylor and her law firm acted as “counsel” for Pavlico’s company Milan, vouching for Pavlico and acting as an escrow agent that in reality was merely receiving and diverting the majority of investor funds.

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced an emergency asset freeze to halt a Ponzi scheme involving U.S. and New Zealand-based companies peddling sham investment opportunities ranging from a bank trading program to kidney dialysis clinics.

The SEC alleges that Christopher A.T. Pedras, who has residences in Turlock, Calif., and New Zealand, misled his initial investors into believing they were investing in a profitable trading platform in which his company served as an intermediary between global banks. When Pedras and his companies encountered difficulty paying the promised 4 to 8 percent monthly returns, they began steering investors to a different investment program to purportedly increase the value of their investment by 80 percent by funding kidney dialysis clinics in New Zealand. Pedras’s business partner Sylvester M. Gray II and lead sales representative Alicia Bryan helped him solicit investors for both programs, and the money was never invested as promised. Earlier investors were paid supposed returns with funds received from newer investors, and Pedras stole more than $2 million and spent another $1.2 million on sales agents.

According to the SEC’s complaint unsealed late Friday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Pedras raised more than $5.6 million from at least 50 investors in the U.S. since July 2010 by selling securities in two phases. Pedras, Gray, and Bryan first solicited investors for their Maxum Gold Small Cap Trade Program in which Pedras’s company Maxum Gold purportedly serves as the intermediary between banks that can’t legally trade with each other directly, so they use Maxum Gold’s trade platform to do so indirectly. Maxum Gold purports to share portions of the trading profits with investors.

In the Matter of OX Trading, LLC, optionsXpress, Inc., and Thomas E. Stern

The Commission issued an Order Making Findings and Imposing Remedial Sanctions and a Cease-and-Desist Order Pursuant to Sections 15(b) and 21C of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as to OX Trading, LLC and optionsXpress, Inc. (OX Order). The OX Order finds that OX Trading, LLC (OX Trading) willfully violated Sections 15(a) and 15(b)(8) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by operating as an unregistered dealer from October 2009 to November 2010 and transacting in securities while not a member of a national securities association or a national exchange from March 2009 to November 2010, respectively. The OX Order also finds that optionsXpress, Inc. caused OX Trading’s violations. The OX Order ordered OX Trading and optionsXpress to cease and desist and ordered OX Trading to pay $2,750,000 in disgorgement, prejudgment interest of $253,094.39, and a civil money penalty of $750,000. (Rel. 34-70739).

The Commission also issued an Order Making Findings and Imposing Remedial Sanctions and a Cease-and-Desist Order Pursuant to Sections 15(b) and 21C of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Section 9(b) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 as to Thomas E. Stern (Stern Order). The Stern Order finds that Thomas E. Stern (Stern), OX Trading’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer during the relevant time period, willfully aided and abetted and caused OX Trading’s violations of Sections 15(a) and 15(b)(8) of the Exchange Act. The Stern Order ordered Stern to cease and desist and to pay a civil money penalty of $50,000. (Rel. 34-70740) Respondents consented to the issuance of the Orders. These proceedings were instituted on April 19, 2012. (Rel. 34-66831).

In the Matter of John Micciola:

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced the issuance of an Order Instituting Administrative Proceedings Pursuant to Section 15(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Making Findings, and Imposing Remedial Sanctions (Order) against John Micciola (Micciola), a resident of Freehold, New Jersey. The Order finds that, on August 8, 2011, Micciola was convicted in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in People of the State of New York v. Joseph Stevens & Co., Inc., et al., Case Number 02394-2009 of two counts of securities fraud, one count of grand larceny in the second degree, and one count of grand larceny in the third degree. The Order further finds that Micciola participated in firm-wide schemes that resulted in excessive and undisclosed commissions on stocks.

Based on the above, the Order bars Micciola from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization and from participating in any offering of a penny stock, including acting as a promoter, finder, consultant, agent or other person who engages in activities with a broker, dealer or issuer for purposes of the issuance or trading in any penny stock, or inducing or attempting to induce the purchase or sale of any penny stock. Micciola consented to the issuance of the Order.

Securities and Exchange Commission v. CKB Holdings Ltd., et al., Civil Action No. 13-5584 (E.D.N.Y., filed October 9, 2013)

SEC Halts $20 Million Pyramid Scheme Targeting Asian-American Community

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced charges and asset freezes against the operators and promoters of a worldwide pyramid scheme targeting members of the Asian-American community. The perpetrators of the scheme falsely promised exponential, risk-free returns to investors in a venture that purportedly sold Internet-based children’s educational courses.

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Brett A. Cooper, Global Funding Systems LLC, Dream Holdings, LLC, Fortitude Investing, LLC, Peninsula Waterfront Development, LP, and REOP Group Inc. and David H. Frederickson and The Law Offices of David H. Frederickson, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-05781-RMB-AMD (D.N.J.) and 1:13-cv-05787-RMB-AMD (D.N.J.)

SEC Charges New Jersey Resident in Prime Bank Investment Scheme and Files Settled Charges Against California Attorney Escrow Agent

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against New Jersey resident Brett A. Cooper and his companies Global Funding Systems LLC, Dream Holdings, LLC, Fortitude Investing, LLC, Peninsula Waterfront Development, LP and REOP Group Inc., who from at least November 2008 through about April 2012 perpetrated three fraudulent schemes and engaged in various fraudulent and deceitful acts, practices and courses of business in furtherance of those schemes.

The Securities and Exchange Commission Halts a Texas-Based Scheme Targeting Foreign Investors Seeking U.S. Residency Through EB-5 Visa Program:

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced fraud charges against a husband and wife in Texas for stealing funds from foreign investors under the guise of an investment opportunity to create U.S. jobs and a path to U.S. residency.

The SEC alleges that Marco and Bebe Ramirez and three companies they own have fraudulently raised at least $5 million from investors by falsely promising that their money would be invested as part of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. Through the program, foreign investors can earn conditional visas and eventually green cards by making investments in U.S. economic development projects that will create or preserve a minimum number of jobs for U.S. workers. Instead of investing the money as promised, the Ramirezes routinely diverted investor funds to other undisclosed businesses and for their personal use. In at least one instance, they used new investor funds to make Ponzi-like payments to an existing investor.

SEC Charges South Florida Woman Behind Ponzi Scheme Targeting Colombian-American Community

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged a woman living in South Florida with defrauding investors in a Ponzi scheme and affinity fraud that targeted the local Colombian-American community and involved purported investments in immigration bail bonds.

The SEC alleges that Jenny E. Coplan told investors that her company Immigration General Services operated through an investment broker that would invest the funds she raised in immigration bail bonds and turn a profit. Coplan promised interest payments ranging from 60 to 108 percent annually. She also assured investors that their money was safe because it was insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, Coplan never placed investor funds with any investment broker, and their money was never FDIC insured. Instead, she paid supposed profits to earlier investors using funds from newer investors in classic Ponzi fashion, and she stole approximately $878,000 of investor money for her own personal use.

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