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On February 26, 2019, the SEC announced charges and an asset freeze against the people behind a South Florida investment scheme. One of the people behind the scheme has a felony conviction, was in prison for 20 years, and is now out on parole. Castleberry Financial Services Group LLC, managed by T. Jonathon Turner and CEO Normal Strell, has allegedly taken approximately $3.6 million from investors over the past year. The SEC filed an emergency action against them in district court, stating that Castleberry lied to its investors, claiming that it had hundreds of millions of dollars of capital invested in various businesses. The company also claimed that it had ties with CNA Financial Corp. and Chubb Group. Castleberry claimed that any investments would be protected and insured by those companies, which the SEC alleges is untrue.On February 26, 2019, the SEC announced charges and an asset freeze against the people behind a South Florida investment scheme. One of the people behind the scheme has a felony conviction, was in prison for 20 years, and is now out on parole.

Castleberry Financial Services Group LLC, managed by T. Jonathon Turner and CEO Normal Strell, has allegedly taken approximately $3.6 million from investors over the past year. The SEC filed an emergency action against them in district court, stating that Castleberry lied to its investors, claiming that it had hundreds of millions of dollars of capital invested in various businesses. The company also claimed that it had ties with CNA Financial Corp. and Chubb Group. Castleberry claimed that any investments would be protected and insured by those companies, which the SEC alleges is untrue. Continue reading

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Registered investment advisor Direct Lending Investments, LLC (CRD# 282476) has been sued by the SEC with multiple fraud charges relating to $11 million in management and performance fee overcharges on private placements. The company also falsified loan repayment information and inflated their annual returns for many years. The suit was filed on March 22 in Los Angeles.A DLI employee notified the SEC that Direct Lending’s founder, Brendan Ross, “knowingly engaged in a multi-year scheme to mask the poor performance of one of the funds’ largest investments,” the SEC said in its lawsuit. Ross engineered loans that were valued “at par,” but should have been valued at zero. Ross also over-stated the company’s valuation of one of its loans, to a company called Quarterspot, an online small-business lender.Registered investment advisor Direct Lending Investments, LLC (CRD# 282476) has been sued by the SEC with multiple fraud charges relating to $11 million in management and performance fee overcharges on private placements. The company also falsified loan repayment information and inflated their annual returns for many years. The suit was filed on March 22 in Los Angeles. Continue reading

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FINRA-Permanently-Bars-Gary-Eugene-Donovan-for-Stock-Manipulation-300x200The SEC obtained a preliminary injunction against two individuals and their companies on October 26, 2018. The fraudulent actions of these individuals resulted in more than $165 million of illegal sales and stock in at least 50 microcap companies.

According to the SEC, U.K. citizen Roger Knox and his Swiss-based company, Wintercap SA, was involved in antifraud and violating federal securities laws. German citizen Michael T. Gastauer and six of his entities were involved in aiding and abetting Knox and Wintercap’s violations of the same provisions. The court had originally entered a temporary restraining order and asset freeze on October 2, 2018.

The SEC’s complaint states that Knox and Wintercap aided microcap securities holders in evading federal securities laws that restrict sales by large shareholders. Knox and Wintercap gave anonymous access to brokerage accounts in order to sell shares in the U.S. market. They also helped sellers conceal the amount of stock they wanted to sell. Gastauer allegedly established several U.S. corporations to aid and abet the fraud, and allowed Knox to use certain bank accounts to distribute the proceeds of his illegal stock sales.

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The SEC has brought additional charges against a Long-Island, New York-based boiler room that was sued for defrauding elderly and unsophisticated investors. The latest charges allege that Christian Romandetti, CEO of First Choice Healthcare Solutions Inc., the boiler room, and four others have committed fraud within the company’s shares and have generated more than $3.3 million of illegal profits. The new charges also allege that the parties generated more than $560,000 in kickbacks for Romandetti.

The SEC’S statement alleges that Romandetti and the other parties lied to more than 100 victims in a scheme that inflated First Choice’s stock price from less than $1 per share to $3.40 per share. From September 2013 until June 2016, the parties used several accounts to disguise their trading, and engaged in fraudulent trading practices. Elite Stock Research, a boiler room run by one of the defendants, Anthony Vassallo, was hired to promote First Choice to investors.

The SEC originally charged Elite Stock Research with bilking victims out of more than $10 million through fraudulent sales tactics and lies about penny stocks. Seven of the 13 individuals have pleaded guilty to criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The litigation against the 13 individuals is still continuing.

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https://www.silverlaw.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Have-You-Lost-Money-with-Cantone-Research-Inc.-300x199.jpgOn October 25, 2018, the SEC obtained a court order to halt the alleged fraudulent actions of a registered stock broker and his companies.

The complaint by the SEC states that Sean Kelly used his companies, Lion’s Share Financial of East Cobb, Inc., Lion’s Share and Associates, Inc., and Lion Share Tax Services, LLC, to raise $1 million from a variety of investors. There were 12 investors, which included retirees. Kelly promised he would invest their funds into different investment products, but his promise was a lie. Instead of investing their funds into private placements and real estate, he used it on his own personal expenses. He continued to steal their money after receiving a SEC subpoena, and didn’t show up to his scheduled testimony. He used their money to buy Super Bowl tickets, expensive vacations, and also for cash withdrawals. The SEC alleges that Kelly has engaged in this fraud scheme since 2014, when he was still affiliated with Capital Financial Services.

Kelly was a representative of Center Street Securities from August 2017 to October 2018. He worked with Capital Financial Services from August 2012 to August 2017 in Marietta, Georgia. His records show that he filed for bankruptcy twice, in 2009 and in 2014.

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Churning-1024x683-300x200The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Emil Botvinnik of taking $3.7 million in a fraudulent scheme involving excessive, high-frequency trading. On November 7, 2018, he asked a New York federal judge to toss the suit because he claimed its allegations do not meet the pleading standard for fraud.

The claims against Botvinnik state that he wrongfully used his clients’ accounts while he was employed at Meyers Associates LP. However, Botvinnik denies these claims and he stated that there are no specific allegations that proves his clients were the type of unsophisticated investors who would not benefit from high-frequency trading. He also stated that his clients may only have been simply unaware of the trading strategy and its risks.

The SEC said that from June 2012 until November 2014, Botvinnik solicited five customers to open securities trading accounts for which he claimed he would employ a profitable trading strategy. He then implemented the strategy of frequent, short-term trades that forced significant costs and commissions on the investors. For example, the accounts would have had to reach an annual return of between 31 and 150 percent just to pay off the transaction costs that built up from the trading strategy. This type of trading is frequently referred to as churning.

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After the state of Massachusetts began an investigation into 63 brokers selling private placements into GPB after the company stopped selling them, The SEC and FINRA have followed suit. Both agencies have launched their own investigations into the company and its practices.

The SEC Has Proposed New Regulations for Fiduciaries on silverlaw.comGPB announced in August that they would cease finding new investment money in order to focus on compliance and straightening out their accounting and financial statements for their two biggest funds. The SEC is, according to one executive, interested in seeing how accurate GPB’s disclosures are that were given to investors. The SEC also wants to review fund performances and distribution of the company’s capital to their investors, as well as broker-dealers who sold these private placements to investors.

Launched in 2013, GPB Capital became one of the fastest growing private placement firms selling shares of their funds through independent broker-dealers. Promoting themselves as offerors of alternative investment assets, New York-based GPB uses the business model of “acquiring income-producing private companies,” primarily auto dealerships. The company has raised $1.8 billion of investor funds.

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In September, we told you about Morgan Stanley brokers James Polese and 29-year-old Cornelius Peterson, who were found guilty of financial charges ranging from conspiracy to aggravated identity theft. They have both been sentenced in the case.

How to Report Elder Financial Fraud on elderfinancialfraudattorneys.comJames Polese has been sentenced to 60 months (five years) in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy, one count of investment adviser fraud and eight counts of bank fraud as well as a charge of aggravated identity theft. The government originally requested 75 months, and the federal guidelines indicate a minimum sentence of 87 months. Polese’s attorney argued for a shorter sentence of 40 months.

Polese was ordered to pay $462,000 in restitution plus a $30,000 fine. After his release from prison, he will be supervised for three years. He will be restricted from working in financial services, and prohibited from drinking alcohol beyond a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10. The judge recognized Polese’s work towards rehabilitation, which included speaking with two ministers who offered letters of support.

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Petrotech Oil & Gas Inc. (PTOG) is a company based in Bedford, TX, and claims it is involved in petroleum recovery from oil wells that are considered “empty.” Using their own extraction technology with CO2 and N2 called “Gas-Injection EOR” (Enhanced Oil Recovery), Petrotech is able to recover 20% or more than previously thought possible.

The SEC Has Proposed New Regulations for Fiduciaries on silverlaw.comOn February 19, 2014, the company announced that it would also be entering the legal cannabis market in Washington and Colorado, causing their stocks to surge. Petrotech’s deal created subsidiary Legalizepot.us Management Group, Inc. (the site is now a blank page.) LP.US Management was intended to manage the growing companies where cannabis became legal, starting with Washington and Colorado.

On March 14, 2014, the SEC suspended trading for the company “because of questions that have been raised about the accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information concerning, among other things, the company’s operations.” Trading resumed on March 28, 2018. The company was in the process of completing a 2-year audit to comply with SEC reporting standards to achieve full reporting status.

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In August, we told you about John Cochran Maccoll (CRD #839441) who was barred by FINRA after multiple fraud allegations. Since then, there have been two additional developments.

Another customer has come forward and filed a complaint on 08/16/2018, alleging misappropriation of client funds from 10/01/2015 through 08/16/2018. The case was settled for $158,163.76. No additional information is available. This case is in addition to the previous cases we described in the earlier blog post.

The SEC Has Proposed New Regulations for Fiduciaries on silverlaw.comOn 8/9/2018, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan filed criminal charges against Maccoll in an action initiated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC.) In it, the SEC detailed how Maccoll persuaded investors, mostly elderly, into investing in what he described as a “highly sought after private fund investment.”  These investors, most of them retired, used their retirement accounts to fund their alleged investments. In return, Maccoll promised a 20% return on investment, as well as diversifying their portfolios and better growth potential than their current investment portfolios.

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