On the heels of a Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of $102 million, the SEC has charged a former insurance broker with defrauding inexperienced retail investors. James Hocker, aged 48, of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania has been charged with defrauding 25 investors of $1.27 million for non-existent securities. He operated his own insurance agency out of his home, James E. Hocker & Associates, selling insurance and annuities as an unregistered entity.
Hocker’s tactic was different—he sold them insurance first to gain their trust, then offered these customers non-existent “investment securities.” He was licensed to sell insurance and annuities, but not securities.
Promising “guaranteed returns” of 10% to 30%, Hocker told these customers that he would invest their money into the S&P 500 and other unspecified investments. However, the monies he collected were deposited in bank accounts he controlled, and investors were not informed that they were his. Hocker used the money to pay bills, tax liens, and spousal support to his ex-wife. He also spent the monies on restaurants and casinos.
Hocker solicited primarily older, inexperienced investors who were either close to retirement, or elderly. Many of these investors were widows who relied on him to manage their money for them after their husbands passed away. He met them through his insurance business, through church or community groups, or the occasional referral.
In the classic Ponzi style, investors were paid “dividends” taken from the cash infusion from new investors. Many were provided “statements” which were printouts of historical S&P 500 prices. Hocker also met with many of them annually, giving them verbal updates on their investments, including principal plus the promised return percentage.
Fifteen investors were given handwritten receipts, which included specified dates for rates of return for a defined term. According to the SEC, none of these funds were ever invested, but from July 2013 to October 2017, Hocker returned approximately $236,000 to the investors, giving the impression that they were being paid “dividends.” Investors continued to give him money, including one who gave him $50,000 for three years, totaling $150,000.
When investors began asking for a return of their funds, they were dissuaded from withdrawals and encouraged to withdraw monies from other investment accounts. Many were given small amounts of money, or their requests were completely ignored. From July 2013 to October 2017, Hocker returned approximately $236,000 to the investors.
Hocker invoked his 5th Amendment right against incrimination when questioned.
The SEC wants Judge Matthew W. Brann to order Hocker from continuing this activity, and order him to surrender his “ill-gotten gains” with interest and impose civil penalties.
Did You Invest Money With James Hocker?
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