Articles Tagged with investment fraud

Former President and CEO of a luxury real estate development company in White Plains pled guilty to federal charges after allegedly orchestrating a 58-million-dollar Ponzi Scheme. Last week, Michael D’Alessio pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of concealing assets from a bankruptcy court following his arrest in August. Michael D’Alessio reportedly solicited investor funds for investments in luxury real estate development projects in Westchester, Manhattan and the Hamptons for years. In return for their money, investors were promised monthly interest payments and shares in the properties. Instead, Michael D’Alessio funneled investor money into multiple shell companies to repurpose at his leisure in a Ponzi-like fashion.

Michael D’ Alessio allegedly misappropriated investor funds that should have been used for investments in real estate through his company from 2015 until April 2018. Michael D’Alessio’s former company, Michael Paul Enterprises reportedly specialized in the design, construction, and management of commercial as well as residential real estate. As part of the alleged Ponzi-scheme, investors were offered shares in real estate properties with guaranteed monthly interest payments and profits. Our attorneys specializing in Ponzi Schemes know that any promises of guaranteed returns should usually raise a red flag.

In addition to the suspicious promises, our investment fraud attorneys find that Michael Alessio’s alleged behavior is indicative of your typical Ponzi Scheme perpetrator. In Ponzi schemes, a perpetrator solicits new investor money to pay falsified returns to existing investors. It is alleged that Michael D’Alessio created a limited liability company for each new property to offer shares. Michael D’ Alessio did not keep investor money within the appropriate companies as expected. Rather, Michael D’Alessio reallocated investors’ individual property’s money to cover shortages in separate ones as well as pay his personal expenses. For instance, Michael D’Alessio used investor money to pay off significant gambling debts.

FINRA barred financial advisor Dawn Bennet, from Chevy Chase, Maryland was reportedly convicted for misappropriating client funds in a multimillion-dollar Ponzi Scheme that targeted elderly and financially unsophisticated investors. A Ponzi Scheme is a type of investment fraud that solicits investor money for non-existing investments. Between, December 2014 and July 2017, Ms. Bennett allegedly raised 20 million dollars from 46 investors through the unregistered offer of securities in her retail sports apparel business, DJB Holdings LLC, (“DJ Bennet”).  This past Wednesday, a jury convicted Ms. Bennett on all 17 federal charges including securities fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud, according to the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Maryland. Ms. Bennet’s alleged Ponzi Scheme received heavy media attention after the FBI found evidence suggesting that she casted “hoodoo” spells intended to silence SEC investigators.

Dawn Bennett (CRD#1567051) worked as a FINRA registered broker and investment adviser before getting barred by the self-regulatory agency, according to her BrokerCheck records. Within her 28 years in the securities industry, Dawn Bennett was registered with Wheat, First Securities, Inc. (03/1987-08/1996), Legg Mason Wood Walker, Inc. (08/1996-02/2006), CitiGroup Global Markets Inc. (02/2006), Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. (02/2006-10/2009), and Western International Securities, Inc. (10/2009-12/2015).  FINRA barred Ms. Bennett from the industry after failing to show up to an administrative hearing.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also charged Dawn Bennett for violating federal securities laws in connection with her alleged Ponzi Scheme. A SEC amended complaint filed last year also lists her business’ CFO, Bradley Mascho, from Frederick, Maryland in addition to Dawn Bennett and her entity DBJ Holdings, LLC. A few months ago, Mr. Mascho pled guilty to charges in a plea bargain that capped his maximum prison term at ten years.

Three men are facings charges by the SEC and federal prosecutors over allegations of running a $364 million in one of the largest Ponzi Schemes found in the Washington D.C region. A federal grand jury indicted the three alleged perpetrators, Kevin Merrill of Maryland, Jay Ledford of Texas and Cameron Jezierski of Texas in a Maryland court. The charges leading to their arrest include wire fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and conspiracy, according to the U.S attorney’s office. They falsely represented themselves as financial professionals selling credit portfolios to unsuspecting investors. Meanwhile, most of the investor money was pocketed or used to pay existing investors. The alleged victims include individuals, family offices, and investment groups across the nation. Investment fraud attorneys see parallels between this case and the textbook example of a Ponzi Scheme.

Alleged Ponzi Schemers Kevin Merrill, Jay Ledford, and Cameron Jezierski allegedly ran a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors using consumer debt portfolios, according to the indictment. Consumer debt portfolios consisted of outstanding debt owed to consumer lenders like banks and student loan lenders. It is alleged that starting in January 2013, the three men collected investor money through offering investments in consumer debt portfolios. The investing victims were allegedly promised profits from successful “flips” or collections from consumer payments.  The indictment further alleges that the men shielded their fraudulent activity from investors through the creation of falsified documents and companies. The investors allegedly received collection reports, consumer debt portfolio overviews and sales agreements, bank wire transfer records and bank statements containing falsified information.

According to the indictment, most of the money was not invested but used to maintain their elaborate Ponzi Scheme, unbeknownst to the victims. A Ponzi Scheme is an investment fraud that solicits people to invest in non-existent investments. New investor money ends up being used to produce “returns” to existing investors to maintain the Ponzi Scheme and fund their lavish lifestyle. The Ponzi Schemer will distribute falsified documents containing inaccurate information about their nonexistent investments. The schemes will spread as investors bring more people on board based on their positive returns in the beginning. As more investors join, Ponzi Schemers, such as the three men receive more money to fund their lavish lifestyle. Notably, according to the indictment in the Baltimore case, $73 million of investor funds went to personal expenses that included high-end cars, expensive homes, and jewelry. Additionally, the accused allegedly spent the money gambling at casinos and other luxuries to sustain their lavish lifestyles.

Patrick Churchville of Rhode Island has been accused of orchestrating a $21 million Ponzi scheme and was recently sentenced to 7 years in prison by a federal judge, according to an Investment News report. Mr. Churchville is the owner and president of ClearPath Wealth Management and according to SEC’s complaint, he allegedly diverted funds from investors to pay older investors, used their funds as collateral for loans or converted investments to benefit ClearPath Wealth Management. According to the news report, he allegedly used $2.5 million of borrowed money to buy a lavish waterfront home in Rhode Island.

Mr. Churchville started running his Ponzi scheme 2010 onwards and like in any Ponzi scheme, he added to his net worth at the cost of his victims, who lost their homes and all their savings. One of his victims was left on food stamps and needed heating assistance by the end of it, and others were forced back into the workforce in their retirement years. U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith called the whole scheme a “tragedy”. Churchville allegedly pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one of tax fraud for failing to pay more than $820,000 in taxes. He has also reportedly been ordered to pay restitution to his 114 victims although the number is unspecified.

Being victimized by financial fraud not only means lost savings but can completely wreak someone’s life and strain personal relationships. At Malecki Law, we regularly help victims of Ponzi scheme get justice and restitution. If you suspect a financial advisor or brokerage firm has been taking advantage of you or your loved ones, reach out for legal advice.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Matthew Meehan.  Mr. Meehan was last employed and registered with E.J. Sterling, LLC, a Garden City, New York, broker-dealer, from November 2011 to October 2015, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  He was previously registered with Aegis Capital Corp. from March 2010 to November 2011 and with Gunnallen Financial, Inc. from September 2008 to March 2010, according to BrokerCheck records.

In 2017, Mr. Meehan was fined and suspended from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer for 12 months by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2016050114901 .  According to the AWC, Mr. Meehan violated FINRA Rule 2111 (Suitability) and FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) because from January 2014 through June 2015, he exercised discretion without the customers’ written authorization to do so, and engaged in unsuitable trading in several customers’ accounts “resulting in annualized turnover rates of 12, 21, and 32, respectively, and annualized cost-to-equity ratios of 54%, 110%, and 179%, respectively.”  Trading at these levels of turnover and cost-to-equity ratios could be considered churning, which is defined as excessive trading by the broker in the client’s account to generate commissions.

FINRA Rules require that recommendations made by the broker to the customer be suitable.  This means that the broker must consider the investor’s age, investment experience, age, tax status, other investments, as well as other factors when making a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) charged broker Marc Broidy and his firm, Broidy Wealth Advisors, for $1.4 million worth of ill-gotten gains, as per reports. It is believed that the firm profited off their client’s trusts by intentionally over-charging accounts.

It has also been reported that Marc Broidy allegedly used this money to finance his personal lifestyle, using the money to pay off mortgages, leases on his Mercedez-Benz cars and overseas trips. According to the SEC complaint, Broidy has misappropriated $865,000 from client’s accounts and billed $643,000 in excessive fees. He also reportedly misled clients by not disclosing his affiliation to certain private companies where investments were made. Briody Wealth Advisors had $25 million in assets under its management until this year, but the recent ADV from February 2016 reported $13.6 million.

According to an SEC risk advisory Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, they have increased their scrutiny of registered representatives. In Mr. Broidy’s case he “fell well short of his fiduciary obligations as an investment adviser”, according to SEC’s regional director.

The securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have purchased Variable Universal Life Insurance (VUL) policies.

According to Investopedia, VUL policies combine a death benefit with investment feature.  The investment feature generally includes sub-accounts, as with other variable annuities, that invest in stocks and bonds, or mutual funds that have exposure to stocks and bonds.  While a VUL investment feature may offer an opportunity to gain an increased rate of return by investing in securities, it generally comes with higher management fees and commissions.  As a result, these commissions and fees must be weighed against the risk of loss in the securities purchased.  These risks must be disclosed to the investor prior to investment.

Issues surrounding VUL policies are not new.  A U.S. News and World Report article from 2011 highlighted that these types of policies generally come with higher fees, fewer investment options and sometimes surrender policies.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Megan Resch.  Ms. Resch is currently registered to sell securities with LPL Financial LLC in the broker-dealer’s Morristown, New Jersey office, according to her publicly available BrokerCheck records maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Ms. Resch has been registered with LPL Financial since November 2010, and before then was registered to sell securities with Multi-Financial Securities Corporation in Martinsville, New Jersey from January 2006 to November 2010, according to her BrokerCheck records.

Ms. Resch’s BrokerCheck records indicate that two customers have raised disputes regarding her recommendations, including 2014 allegations of an unsuitable limited partnership investment that causes losses, which was settled for $78,400.  Additionally, a customer alleged in 2011 that there were misrepresentation and suitability issues on investments from April 2007 to December 2010, which dispute was settled for $105,000, according to the BrokerCheck records.

Generally speaking, FINRA Rules require that recommendations made by the broker to the customer be suitable.  This means that the broker must consider the investor’s age, investment experience, tax status, other investments, as well as other factors when making a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

Malecki Law’s team of investment fraud attorneys are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints regarding broker Brett A. Baffa. Mr. Baffa was most recently licensed through NYLife Securities before being terminated by the firm, per industry records.

According to his BrokerCheck report maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Baffa has been the subject of two employment separations after allegations and a regulatory inquiry.

Mr. Baffa’s FINRA records indicate that in 2006, Mr. Baffa was “discharged” by J.P. Turner & Co, LLC for “failure to follow principal’s instructions; use of unapproved correspondence that included price predictions.”