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It seems like a way to get justice against fraud: requesting an arbitration hearing with FINRA after losing money in a fraudulent or shady investment your broker insisted was solid. A defrauded investor then files a complaint with FINRA, who arranges an arbitration hearing, and money damages are awarded to the investor, paid by the broker and/or the broker dealer.Sounds fair, right?While many investors have been able to recover at least some of their losses, about 25% of these judgments go unpaid. FINRA arbitration panels awarded $84 million to investors in 2017 alone. Of that sum, $21 million of it remains unpaid. So what good is arbitration if you’re still waiting to receive your award from a “deadbeat?” Most of these awards are against small brokerage firms which are out of business and did not carry insurance.It seems like a way to get justice against fraud: requesting an arbitration hearing with FINRA after losing money in a fraudulent or shady investment your broker insisted was solid. A defrauded investor then files a complaint with FINRA, who arranges an arbitration hearing, and money damages are awarded to the investor, paid by the broker and/or the broker dealer.

Sounds fair, right?

While many investors have been able to recover at least some of their losses, about 25% of these judgments go unpaid. FINRA arbitration panels awarded $84 million to investors in 2017 alone. Of that sum, $21 million of it remains unpaid. So what good is arbitration if you’re still waiting to receive your award from a “deadbeat?” Most of these awards are against small brokerage firms which are out of business and did not carry insurance. Continue reading

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Walter Roland Valenzuela (CRD #2280224) is a registered broker and investment advisor currently employed with Hilltop Securities Inc. (CRD #6220) of Del Mar, CA. His only previous employer was M.L. Stern & Co., LLC. (CRD #8327) of San Diego, CA, where he worked until 2008.  He has been in the industry since 1993.

Valenzuela is the subject of seven disclosures, all customer disputes. The most recent dispute was filed on 7/23/20018. Alleging unsuitable recommendations, misrepresentation and excessive trading, the client is requesting damages of $3,000,000. This case is “pending,” and no additional information is available.

Three Individuals Charged by the SEC for Defrauding Elderly Clients on elderfinancialfraudattorneys.comAnother still-pending dispute was filed on 8/24/2017, and will be in securities arbitration. The client lists multiple allegations, including elder abuse, financial exploitation, breach of fiduciary duty, excessive trading and misrepresentation. The damages requested are listed at $9,500,000.00. However the claim has no damage amount listed, and the final sum will be determined in arbitration.

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Zachary-Bader-Suspended-After-Multiple-Allegations-of-Churning-300x232A man whose account was churned down to $10,000 was awarded both compensatory damages of $375,000 for his original investment plus an additional $700,000 in punitive damages. The client, Herbert W. Voss, was awarded $1.075 million by FINRA.

Mr. Voss’ attorney was quoted as saying that “It was like the Wild, Wild West in terms of lack of controls at the firm. It was unconscionable.”

Legend Securities, expelled by FINRA in April of 2017, was also known as Marlin Trading, Inc. and SPC Securities, Inc. The company’s record lists 32 disclosures. Many of these are similar to Mr. Voss as well as multiple fines and censures.

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Francisco Jose Faraco (CRD #5095972) is a former registered broker and investment advisor whose last employer was Morgan Stanley (CRD #149777) of New York, NY. His previous employers include J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (CRD #79), also of New York, NY, Santander Securities (CRD #41791) and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (CRD #7691) both of Miami, FL. No other employment information is available, and he is not currently registered with any FINRA member firm. He has been in the industry since 2006.

FINRA-Permanently-Bars-Broker-Richard-McGuire-for-Taking-Funds-and-Forging-Signatures-300x200Faraco is the subject of three disclosures. Two are for one specific incident.

In January of 2016, Faraco allegedly began assisting an institutional customer obtain a $15M loan from Morgan Stanley Private Bank. In the course of applying, he attempted to keep the process moving after two roadblocks—an expired passport for one individual, and forging two signatures on two assurance documents for collateral. Faraco felt the documents were duplicates. Those signatures were representatives of affiliated companies. The bank approved the loan, and the forgeries were discovered only after one of the affiliates complained.

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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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Frequently, investment and securities fraud cases are only limited by Wall Street’s ability to find new and creative ways to abuse investors.

This type of fraud arises out of allegations that losses are due to misconduct or causes unrelated to market forces and is governed by the Securities Exchange Commission, also known as the SEC.

Attorney Scott Silver, of the Silver Law Group says:

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On October 9, 2018, Scott Silver lectured at the University of Miami School of Law Securities Arbitration Clinic.  The clinic was initially funded by FINRA and serves an important public service helping many small investors pursue their claims while teaching the next generation of lawyers.

Scott Silver has been actively representing investors in claims for over twenty years and is a graduate of Miami Law School, Class of ’96.  Scott spoke about the FINRA discovery process, the importance of pre-filing discovery and shared stories of previous experiences including a recent case for a woman named Flossie whose financial advisor tried to make himself a beneficiary of her estate.  Scott highlighted how many cases revolve around issues of elder financial fraud or abuse.

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Scott also enjoyed some time on campus and meeting 80’s movie star, Christian Slater, who was helping register students to vote.

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Investment Center Broker Accused of Stealing $300K from Elderly Client on silverlaw.comLeon Vaccarelli allegedly defrauded a total of nine clients out of more than $1 million

In May, former financial advisor Leon Vaccarelli was charged with 12 counts of fraud and money laundering in a federal court in Connecticut. If convicted on all of them, he could receive a maximum penalty of 210 years in prison. After pleading not guilty, Vaccarelli was released on a $100,000 bond.

Vaccarelli is alleged to have stolen money from several clients between 2011 and 2017. During that time, he reportedly informed his clients that their money would be invested in different places, including money market accounts and retirement products. What Vaccarelli actually did, according to investigators, was put the money into his own account and use it to pay his own expenses. In addition, federal prosecutors also say that he also used client money to make interest payments to other investors.

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National Securities Corporation: Frequent Customer Disputes with FINRA on silverlaw.comHow the company has violated or been accused of violating FINRA regulations

It is always important for investors to have a good understanding of the financial professionals they work with. Before handing over money to anyone, brokers should be vetted properly. This is why the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) created its BrokerCheck reports.

Not only do these provide good information on where brokers are licensed and their work histories, but they also reveal customer disputes, discharges, and alleged improper activity. But these reports don’t just cover brokers – they also include their member firms.

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If you’ve been investing for even a short while, you may have been contacted by someone claiming that you were “cheated” out of money or otherwise wronged by your broker. This company can help you get your money back that you are rightfully entitled to, they say.

Non-attorney representatives have been the subject of numerous recent news stories about how they fail to adequately represent investors in arbitration.

If you were to work with a law firm like Silver Law Group, you would be entering into a payment agreement commonly known as a “contingency fee arrangement.”  In other words, your legal fee would be contingent on representing you, and winning your case. You would generally have no out-of-pocket expenses.  A percentage of your settlement would be the fee you pay for the work on your case.

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