Georgia Man Sentenced to Over 7 1/2 Years in Prison for Synthetic Identities Scheme That Defrauded Banks Out of Nearly $2 Million (DOJ Release)SEC Charges Advisory Firm and Executives with Devising an Elaborate Scheme to Defraud Clients out of More Than $75 Million (SEC Release)
FINRA Arbitrators Award About 2/10ths of a Percent of Claimants' Damages Demand Against Raymond James and RepFINRA Fines and Suspends Former Mutual of Omaha Investor Services Rep for Sending Customer Info Via Email
Burnell falsely claimed to have accumulated tens of millions of dollars from lawsuits he purportedly won against the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and Kaiser Permanente; from selling a patent for an air-cooled, bullet-resistant vest to Oakley Inc.; and through investments in small businesses and money-lending opportunities. Burnell left the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department in May 2008. The scheme began no later than November 2010 and continued until September 2017.After deceiving victims into believing he was a wealthy businessman, Burnell then induced victims to invest up to hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time with him by offering exclusive investment opportunities that promised rates of returns as high as 100% to be repaid in a few weeks. In some instances, Burnell asked the victim for an initial trial investment with him, during which he would fulfill his promised returns - and gain the victim's trust - only to ask for a larger amount from them."But these investment opportunities did not actually exist," prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. "Rather, [Burnell] would spend the money on maintaining a life of luxury for himself and his Hooters calendar model girlfriends, gambling, and private jets."Burnell spent victims' money on gambling and luxury items, including losing more than $2 million in gambling at the San Manuel Casino in Highland, $500,000 in private jet trips, $70,000 on Louis Vuitton merchandise, and $175,000 on luxury cars and an apartment lease for his then-girlfriends. Burnell continued this investment fraud scheme for years until he could not identify new victims to defraud and the money from his victims ran out.As victims began to raise concerns to him about a lack of repayment and defaults, Burnell claimed that his money had been tied up in a trust fund and his remaining assets had been seized by federal authorities. He then cheated some of the victims out of additional funds by falsely claiming he needed loans to pay for his then-wife's cancer treatment, a child custody dispute with his father-in-law, and other personal expenses.To alleviate victims' concerns, Burnell showed many victims a fabricated Wells Fargo bank statement that said he had more than $150 million in his account that he would use to pay back victims once his funds were no longer tied up. In truth, Burnell had less than $6,500 in that account.Burnell's victims lost a total of $7,592,491, which included their retirement and other savings and investment funds. According to court documents, some victims became depressed and suicidal, others lost their businesses, some were forced to sell their family homes and move into smaller residences, some had to tell their children they could no longer pay for their college education, and some suffered marital problems and got divorced. Some victims had their retirement plans shattered.
[F]from at least June 2020 until August 2021, Ruiz and his team of about 70 sales agents solicited and raised at least $46 million from over 5,100 MJ Capital investors. The complaint alleges that Ruiz and his sales team represented to investors that their money would be used to make small business loans called "merchant cash advances," and that in exchange, investors would receive monthly returns of 10% to 15%. In reality, according to the complaint, Ruiz knew, or was severely reckless in not knowing, that MJ Capital was using new investor money to pay purported returns to existing investors in a classic Ponzi scheme fashion. The complaint further alleges that Ruiz misappropriated or misused about $6.5 million of investor money, a portion of which he spent on various personal expenditures. In addition, the complaint alleges that Ruiz's sales team received at least $5.3 million, and Ruiz directly received another $292,000, in commission payments from MJ Capital for promoting these investments.
[F]rom approximately 2011 through 2017, David Alcorn, 78, of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Aghee William Smith II, 70, of Roseville, California, were part of an investment fraud conspiracy that operated out of California, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, and Hampton Roads, among other locations across the country. Alcorn, Smith, and their co-conspirators-including Kent Maerki, 78, and his wife Norma Jean Coffin, 60, of Arizona; Daryl Bank, 51, of Florida; insurance salesman Tony Sellers, 62, of Idaho; insurance salesman Tom Barnett, 69, of California; attorney Billy Seabolt, 56, of Williamsburg; Raeann Gibson, 49, of Florida; and Roger Hudspeth, 51, of Suffolk - deceived hundreds of unsuspecting investors, most of whom were at or near retirement age, by convincing them to invest in or send money to companies owned and controlled by Alcorn, Bank, and Maerki. Alcorn and others then misappropriated significant portions of the investment funds to pay for their criminal enterprise and lavish lifestyles, as well as to pay exorbitant commissions to Smith and other salesmen.Smith began selling these fraudulent investments in 2011 for Alcorn, Maerki, and Bank. The conspirators used material misrepresentations to sell illiquid, highly speculative investments that were then used as vehicles for fraud. Trusting the conspirators' fraudulent misrepresentations, unsuspecting investors cashed out of 401(k) and other retirement accounts to invest without knowing that Alcorn, Bank, and Maerki were immediately transferring 20%-70% of the funds to other companies they controlled in the form of purported "fees." As a result of this investment fraud scheme, the victims suffered losses in excess of $20 million.Bank was convicted after trial of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, selling unregistered securities, securities fraud, and money laundering, and was sentenced in September 2021 to 35 years in prison. Maerki pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced in March 2021 to 16 years in prison. Seabolt was convicted after trial of conspiracy and mail fraud and sentenced in September 2021 to 10 years in prison. Gibson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced in February 2020 to 10 years in prison. Hudspeth pleaded guilty to investment advisor fraud and money laundering and was sentenced in May 2018 to over 12 years in prison. Sellers pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced in January to 5 years in prison. Coffin pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced in April to 5 years in prison. Barnett will be sentenced in September.
[B]oatwright and Napier called themselves the "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde" when, in a period from about November 2020 to June 2021, they drove around Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida to steal mail from mailboxes, capturing personal identifying information from the stolen mail, and then using that information to gain access and control of their victims' bank accounts.Using that information, the two stole, or attempted to steal, hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims, including those residing in the Statesboro area, with actual and attempted financial losses of nearly $1.5 million.
No later than 2017, Cato joined conspiracies to defraud banks and illegally possess credit cards. Cato and his co-conspirators created "synthetic identities" by combining false personal information such as fake names and dates of birth with the information of real people, such as their Social Security numbers. Cato and others then used the synthetic identities and fake ID documents to open bank and credit card accounts at financial institutions. Cato and his co-conspirators used the unlawfully obtained credit cards to fund their lifestyles.As part of the scheme, Cato maintained a commercial mail receiving agency space called "Pak Mail" in Georgia where he and his co-conspirators received correspondence related to the synthetic identities, including bank account and credit card statements, while insulating their personal addresses from detection.Using a stolen social security number and fake California driver's license, Cato rented an apartment in Atlanta under the name "Jason Brown," where, in February 2019, he possessed credit cards and financial information in the names of synthetic identities like "Adam M. Lopez" and "Carlos Rivera."The total losses to the banks totaled approximately $1.9 million.
[P]adilla is a one-time stockbroker who was barred from the securities industry in 2012 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is alleged that, between February and April 2021, Padilla participated in a sophisticated and lucrative pump-and-dump fraud scheme involving the shares of Charlestowne Premium Beverages Inc., a thinly-traded microcap company that traded under the stock ticker symbol FPWM. As part of the scheme, Padilla is alleged to have orchestrated the fraudulent inflation (or "pump") of Charlestowne's stock price using his brokerage account and the accounts of several other individuals. He then allegedly facilitated the sale (or "dump") of millions of Charlestowne's shares at pumped up prices to unsuspecting investors in Massachusetts and throughout the United States.
[F]rom July 2017 through 2018, Lindberg and Herwig, through Standard Advisory, breached their fiduciary duties to their advisory clients by fraudulently causing them to engage in undisclosed related-party transactions that were not in the best interest of their clients. The SEC's complaint further alleges that the defendants misappropriated more than $57 million in client funds and that Standard Advisory collected more than $21.4 million in advisory fees generated in connection with these schemes. In an attempt to conceal the fraud, Lindberg allegedly orchestrated the schemes through complex investment structures and a web of affiliate companies and allegedly used the proceeds to pay themselves or to divert the funds to Lindberg's other businesses.
[T]he SEC is investigating, among other things, whether Ignite violated the federal securities laws by making false or misleading statements in reporting its 2020 financial results. The filing states that the SEC has reason to believe that Ignite improperly recognized and reported certain revenues as part of its 2020 financial statements. The filing alleges that SEC staff served Ignite with an investigative subpoena requiring the production of certain documents, but that, despite multiple accommodations by the SEC staff, Ignite has failed to produce the full set of requested documents.The SEC seeks an order from the court directing Ignite to show cause why the court should not compel it to produce documents as required by the subpoena. The SEC further seeks an order from the court, following its ruling on the order to show cause, directing Ignite to comply fully with the subpoena. The SEC is continuing its fact-finding investigation and, to date, has not concluded that any individual or entity has violated the federal securities laws.
[F]rom at least November 2016 through February 2018, Lee A. Bressler served as portfolio manager for the Carbon Master Fund, L.P. The SEC alleges that Bressler represented to investors that the fund followed a conservative investment strategy emphasizing capital preservation and low risk. The SEC further alleges, however, that while making these misrepresentations, Bressler engaged in unauthorized high-risk trading in two undisclosed accounts that were margined against the fund's assets. As alleged, this trading not only violated the fund's stated investment mandate but also exposed the fund's assets to extreme risk of loss, which came to fruition in February 2018. According to the SEC, Bressler's unauthorized trading caused the complete loss of investor capital in the fund.
In May 2020, in anticipation of joining another FINRA member firm, Luebeck improperly removed his customers' nonpublic personal information from Mutual of Omaha, without Mutual of Omaha's or the customers' knowledge or consent. Specifically, on May 14 and May 15, 2020, while associated with Mutual of Omaha, Lue beck sent emails from his Mutual of Omaha email account to an outside email account that he controlled. The emails contained customers' nonpublic personal information as defined by Regulation S-P that Luebeck received as part of his employment with the firm. Luebeck retained this information after the termination of his association with Mutual of Omaha during which time he was not entitled to possess the information. Among other things, the emails contained customers' dates of birth, social security numbers, investment account numbers, life insurance policy numbers, tax filings, and a driver's license number. Luebeck resigned from Mutual of Omaha on May 15, 2020, and associated with another FINRA member firm the same day.By virtue of the foregoing, Luebeck failed to observe high standards of just and equitable principles of trade in violation ofFINRA Rule 2010.
In June 2015, Helal sought approval to engage in an outside business activity as a tax preparer. In July 2015, Huntington informed Helal that his outside business activity would not be approved.Helal was aware of the firm's WSPs and that his request for approval had been denied, but worked as a tax preparer earning approximately $60,000 in compensation for the tax years 2015 through 2020.Helal also made false statements to Huntington regarding his outside business activity in quarterly compliance acknowledgements and annual compliance certifications between October 2015 and May 2021.Therefore, Helal violated FINRA Rules 3270 and 2010.
Between January and September 2020, Granner failed to timely and fully disclose an outside business activity for which he received compensation. In early January 2020, without providing prior written notice to Thrivent, Granner formed a consulting services company. Granner was aware that Thrivent's written supervisory procedures required its associated persons to provide written notice and receive prior approval for all outside business activities. When Granner belatedly sought his firm's approval of his outside business activity in late February 2020, he failed to fully disclose the nature of his business. Specifically, he failed to disclose that through this business he would provide financial sales coaching and training to Thrivent-registered persons, activities he knew or should have known his firm would not approve because the firm prohibits third-party financial sales training and had denied Granner's prior request for approval of substantially similar outside business activity in 2019.Nonetheless, Granner solicited 186 firm-registered persons to become coaching clients of his consulting business, of which nine became clients who paid Granner approximately $28,000. Granner also falsely attested in an annual compliance questionnaire that he had completely and accurately disclosed his outside business activities to the firm.Therefore, Granner violated FINRA Rules 3270 and 2010.
Respondent understands that this settlement includes a finding that he willfully omitted to state a material fact on a Form U4, and that under Section 3(a)(39)(F) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Article III, Section 4 of FINRA's By-Laws, this omission makes him subject to a statutory disqualification with respect to association with a member.
In January 2020, Perrillo learned of, through correspondence from FINRA, two unsatisfied liens filed against him. Specifically, Perrillo learned of an unsatisfied lien against him by the homeowner's association of his condominium in the amount of $8,890.14 and an unsatisfied tax lien against him by the State of Tennessee in the amount of $634.97. Although Perrillo was required to disclose the unsatisfied liens via the filing of an amended Form U4 within 30 days of learning of them, he never amended his Form U4 to disclose these liens.On or around January 28, 2020, Perrillo learned that a civil judgment had been entered against him in the amount of $355,014. The judgment remained outstanding against him until October 2021. Although Perrillo was required to disclose the unsatisfied judgment via the filing of an amended Form U4 within 30 days of learning of it, Perrillo never amended his Form U4 to disclose this judgement.In September 2021, Perrillo filed a bankruptcy petition. Although Perrillo was required to disclose the bankruptcy petition via the filing of an amended Form U4 within 30 days, he never amended his Form U4 to disclose it. In November 2021, the bankruptcy was dismissed after Perrillo filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal.By willfully failing to disclose the judgment, two liens, and bankruptcy petition, Perrillo violated Article V, Section 2(c) of FINRA's By-Laws and FINRA Rules 1122 and 2010.