Several older investors reportedly fell victim to the scam, including a former police officer
From 2013 to 2014, several senior citizens living in South Florida invested over $400,000 in Blue Ocean Farm, a fish farm company. Three purported financial professionals reportedly solicited funds for the farm – Rebecca Gonzalez and Matthew Braun of Boca Raton and Michael Creamer of St. Petersburg. There was just one problem: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says that the company was completely bogus.
The scheme was allegedly spearheaded by Gonzalez, and now she, Braun, and Creamer are facing several charges, including fraud, selling unregistered securities, and the sale of securities by an unregistered person. The trio reportedly targeted six older investors, all of which handed over thousands of dollars.
According to the arrest affidavit, “the defendants utilized high-pressure sales tactics, bait and switch tactics and the unlicensed sale of unregistered securities to induce victims into investing in Blue Ocean Inc., a Florida corporation that this investigation revealed existed for the sole purpose of perpetuating this fraud.”
One of the alleged victims was a former member of law enforcement, and although he said he was suspicious from the beginning, he trusted Gonzalez enough to give her $15,000.
“What she was basically doing is taking the older people’s life savings,” he said. “I dealt with her two, three years prior to this. I trusted her. I was in law enforcement for almost 30 years and I should know better, but we all make mistakes so it can happen to anybody.”
It seems pretty clear why this group may have gone after older people, says the affidavit: “The elderly age group targeted by the defendants represented some of the more vulnerable members of our community because of the perceived reluctance by senior citizens to report themselves as victims of fraud scams to law enforcement and their family members.”
According to FINRA’s BrokerCheck report, Gonzalez worked for five firms over an 11-year span:
- R.K. Grace & Company – Miami
- Cardinal Capital Management, Inc. – Miami
- David Lerner Associates, Inc. – Boca Raton
- National Securities Corporation – Boca Raton
- Southeast Investments, N.C., Inc. – Boca Raton
Gonzalez was fired by Southeast in 2012 for allegations of selling away. She was also permanently barred from the securities industry by FINRA as of January 2014. It should be noted that National Securities Corporation has frequently been investigated for potential securities industry violations. Most recently, the company has faced scrutiny over biotech startup investments.
As for the other charged individuals, Matthew Braun’s BrokerCheck report shows that he is no longer a registered broker, and the only firm he has worked for is David Lerner Associates, Inc. for a period of about four months. The report also reveals several previous criminal charges, including petty larceny and drug possession. FINRA has no records of Michael Creamer acting as a broker.
Don’t be a victim any longer
If you were the victim of some kind of financial scheme and it was perpetrated by a registered broker or other financial professionals, you may be able to recover lost funds. The Silver Law Group is experienced in both securities arbitration and litigation. You can get in touch with one of our experienced elder financial fraud and securities arbitration attorneys for a free consultation.
And because we work on contingency, you won’t owe us a fee unless you recover money. Call us at 800-975-4345 or send a message through our online contact form.