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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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The SEC has ordered four entities of Transamerica to refund $97 million to investors after discovering that faulty investment models used for fund management didn’t work as it was purported.

The SEC Has Proposed New Regulations for Fiduciaries on silverlaw.comAegon USA Investment Management, operating through Transamerica Asset Management, Transamerica Capital, Inc. and Transamerica Financial Advisors, discovered the model’s inconsistencies, but didn’t notify anyone when they stopped using it. This kept investors from understanding the risks and kept them from making more informed decisions about their investments.

The quantitative investment models were developed by an inexperienced junior analyst who had no experience in portfolio management. Once the company discovered the errors, the models were quietly taken out of circulation. Investors put billions of dollars into mutual funds and other accounts that used these models, which were sold as “model driven” and “model supported.” However, there was no hard evidence that these models actually worked, and no disclosure of risk was ever offered.

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Back in June, we told you about five former brokers charged by the SEC when the agency shut down their Ponzi scheme worth $102 million.

What-Keeps-a-Ponzi-Scheme-Running-300x200Scott Silver recently spoke with Jennifer Cefalu of WHEC News in Rochester, NY, where two of the suspects lived and the scheme originated. The scheme was run by Perry Santillo, Jr. and Chris Parris, with Santillo headlining.

Santillo, Parris and three others recruited their investors by word of mouth, after buying client lists from brokers. Ultimately, 637 people were defrauded, many in the Rochester area. The entities they represented were not registered with any federal agency like the SEC or FINRA, nor were any of them registered brokers or investment advisors.

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Craig Aaron Bonn (CRD #2280460) is a currently registered FINRA broker employed with National Securities Corporation (CRD #7569) of New York, NY. He was previously registered with Laidlaw & Company (UK) LTD. (CRD #119037) and Sands Brothers & Co., LTD. (CRD #26816), both also of New York, NY. He has been in the industry since 1993.

FINRA Reports Brokers Nas Adel Allan and Gregory Anastos Made Unsuitable Recommendations on elderfinancialfraudattorneys.comBonn is currently the subject of a customer dispute filed on 8/29/2018 that alleges unsuitability and excessive trading from 2008 through 2016. The client has requested damages of $228,128.47. Bonn denies the claims of wrongdoing made in this dispute.

Previously, Bonn was accused of making “unsuitable recommendations” for a client from 2006 through 2012 in a dispute filed on 1/17/2014. The client requested $800,000 in damages, and the firm settled for $325,000. Bonn was “dismissed and discharged” from this case, and the company settled without any input or contribution from him.

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Marijuana is still an illegal substance in a number of states (and on the federal level.) But with the increased evidence of medical benefits, many states have begun legalization for medical use. Some, like California and Colorado, have also legalized it for recreational use. Companies are now looking for ways to cash in on this new “green” industry, from growing to manufacturing and processing, as well as associated industries like equipment, real estate and legal services.

FINRA-Permanently-Bars-Gary-Eugene-Donovan-for-Stock-Manipulation-300x200One company that began dealing with acquiring and leasing land for growing marijuana is CannaBusiness Group out of California. CannaBusiness was founded in 1985, and became a publicly traded company (CBGI) in 2005. CannaBusiness is in the business of the marijuana industry support services, not growing, harvesting and processing. However, the company seems to have fallen off the radar.

According to the company’s Facebook page and other pages that discuss it, CannaBusiness is about “real estate acquisition, leasing, and management firm whose primary focus is on zoning issues.”  Calling itself “services for the medical marijuana industry,” the description includes that the company has: “also developed an acquisition plan to acquire companies that sell products and services to include security services, e-commerce store fronts for both grow and dispensary operations, technology solutions, software solutions, and miscellaneous solutions. It is actively involved in the capitalization, development and acquisition of marijuana based consumer products as well as the supporting technologies.”

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It seemed like a good investment—a company that repurposes and refits old shipping containers into hydroponic growing “pods” for local Denver agriculture, as well as the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry. These refurbished containers, complete with installed grow lighting, were known as “PharmPods.”  They were marketed as portable hydroponic greenhouses that would solve the problem of finding viable land for agriculture by creating vertical growing spaces in urban areas.

An affiliated company, Vertifresh, was responsible for selling lettuce to local restaurants that was alleged to be grown in PharmPods.

Unfortunately, while the “pods” were real, the company that sold them wasn’t.

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In the rush to get into the newest investment markets ahead of the curve, some companies will say anything, even if it’s wrong. Our law firm is actively involved in several Cannabis investment lawsuits.

The SEC Has Proposed New Regulations for Fiduciaries on silverlaw.comThis week, the SEC filed charges against the Dallas, Texas based Greenview Investment Partners L.P. and its founder Michael E. Cone. The complaint alleges that Cone and his company defrauded investors out of more than $3.3 million with the idea that they would loan money to marijuana-related businesses. The company closed after an FBI probe earlier this year.

“Greenview allegedly exploited investor interest in the marijuana industry and lied about high returns and the backgrounds of its key executives,” said Shamoil T. Shipchandler, Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office.

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