Articles Tagged with ponzi scheme

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.

Investors are encouraged to watch out for “false prophets” that commit affinity fraud by targeting members of religious communities. CNBC posted an article about rampant religious-based fraud with securities attorney Jenice Malecki’s commentary for tonight’s new episode of true crime series American Greed. The episode, entitled “An Ungodly Scammer” will feature the story of convicted multimillion-dollar Ponzi Scheme fraudster Ephren Taylor, who targeted churchgoers. Ephren Taylor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and sentenced to 235 months. In an interview for tonight’s premiering American Greed episode, Jenice Malecki comments on Ephren Taylor’s religious fraud with a warning for investors to be on the lookout for affinity fraud.

Ephren Taylor collected millions of dollars by traveling to megachurches in 43 states to solicit investors in his low-risk investments as part of his “Building Wealth” tour. In his visits, Ephren Taylor spoke of his status as a self-made multimillionaire from a young age to represent his credibility. Investors listened and believed as Ephren Taylor used religion to garner their funds through his “prosperity gospel” sales pitches. Ephren Taylor claimed to sell investors high yield promissory notes that would finance socially responsible ventures that included low-income housing projects. Instead, provided funds were being allocated to Ephren Taylor’s personal expenditures and occasional false “returns” to existing investors, as part of a Ponzi Scheme.

Now, victims of Ephren Taylors’ Ponzi Scheme are left distraught and defrauded out of millions of dollars in life savings after falling prey to his affinity fraud. Affinity fraud refers to an investment scam that targets members of identifiable groups based on shared commonalities. The affinity fraud perpetrator will leverage represented membership within the group to exploit trust and sell a fraudulent investment. Jenice Malecki told CNBC that in affinity situations, people would tend to be comfortable enough to blindly trust those that share membership within their church or ethnic communities. A famous example of this is Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme which raised billions through targeting Jewish communities.

While marijuana-related investments grow in popularity, the SEC has reportedly received more associated complaints from investors. As a result, the Securities and Exchange Commission warns individuals to be mindful of certain risks before investing in marijuana-related companies. The SEC released an investor alert with this warning after medical marijuana company owner, Richard Greenlaw settled charges for allegedly offering and selling unregistered securities to 59 investors.  Signs of fraud reportedly include unlicensed, unregistered sellers; guaranteed returns; and unsolicited offers. Chiefly, Richard Greenlaw was not registered nor licensed to sell his marijuana-related investments with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC complaint, filed with the United States District Court of Maine charged the owner of NECS, Richard Greenlaw and his 20 cannabis-related entities for violating the registration provisions of federal securities laws. The 20 cannabis-related entities charged in the SEC complaint are NECS LLC, MaineCS LLC, VTCS LLC, MassCS LLC, NHCS LLC, RICS LLC, CTCS LLC, FLCS LLC, ILCS LLC, IACS LLC, LOUCS LLC, MICS LLC, MNCS LLC, NDCS LLC, NJCS LLC, NYCS LLC, OHCS LLC, PennCS LLC, UPCS LLC, and WICS LLC. It is alleged that Richard Greenlaw posted advertisements on Craigslist to offer and sell subscription agreements for securities in his companies. In response to these charges, Mr. Greenlaw agreed to pay $400,000 and accept permanent injunctions from further violations of  Section 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933.

Federal securities laws mandate that any offer and sale of a security must be registered with the SEC. A company registers a security by filing financial statements, business descriptions and other legally required information with the SEC. Otherwise, the securities offering must be found to be subject to exemption under Securities Act 1933. Offerings of securities that can be exempt include those of limited size, intrastate, private and more. Exemption requirements may also require that securities be only sold to accredited investors. Thus, investment salespersons would be prohibited from selling exempted securities to any investors who do not meet the requirements. In this case, Mr. Greenlaw’s marijuana-related investments were not registered nor qualified for exemption.

Barred FINRA-registered broker Steve Pagartanis, of Suffolk County, N.Y, is facing charges by the SEC and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office for allegedly running a multi-million-dollar Ponzi Scheme that bilked long-term investors, many of them seniors, for 18 years. In May 2018, the SEC filed a civil complaint against Steven Pagartanis alleging that he solicited and sold securities using falsified statements; defrauding at minimum nine investors out of $8 million. Mr. Pagartanis allegedly told investors that he would invest their funds in a publicly-traded or private land development company. Steven Pagartanis was arrested on July 25, 2018, with charges related to securities fraud as well as mail and wire conspiracies in connection with this alleged Ponzi scheme. Before being barred from acting as a broker by FINRA, Steve Pagartanis (CRD#1958879) was most recently a registered broker with Lombard Securities Incorporated. Our securities fraud attorneys are currently investigating into Steve Pagartanis’s alleged Ponzi Scheme on behalf of investors who lost their irreplaceable life savings.

Victims claimed to have trusted Mr. Pagartanis after having done business with him for years and entrusted hundreds of thousands of dollars, including retirement and elder care earmarked money.  Mr. Pagartanis reportedly claimed that the money would purchase investments in Genesis Land Development. His victims claim that Mr. Pagartanis promised that their investments in the real estate development company would produce 4.5% in guaranteed interest with annual dividends. On the contrary, Mr. Pagartanis allegedly never invested the money and deposited it into his personal bank accounts, as also alleged in the SEC complaint. Now, victims of Mr. Pagartanis’s alleged Ponzi Scheme are left distraught, with no other choice but to hold the appropriate parties responsible – in particularly his brokerage firm Cadaret Grant & Co.

Our investor fraud attorneys see many parallels between Steve Pagartanis’s alleged fraudulent actions and typical Ponzi Scheme activity. A Ponzi Scheme is a kind of investment fraud in which a perpetrator pays “false returns” to existing investors using new deposits. Ponzi Scheme perpetrators will use some of the money to fund their lavish lifestyles. As is often the case in Ponzi Schemes, Steve Pagartanis relied on built up trust gained over the years from his mostly elderly clients. Eventually, Steve Pagartanis allegedly failed to make an expected payment to a client, which most probably unveiled the fraud. Ponzi schemes are almost always finally revealed when the fraudulent perpetrator could no longer make a payment, according to securities fraud attorneys.

Malecki Law attorney Jenice Malecki was on the set of business news network CNBC’s documentary true crime series American Greed yesterday to speak about affinity fraud for an upcoming episode. American Greed provides in depth-reporting exposing Ponzi Schemes, mortgage fraud, art heists, identity theft, and other shocking things people have done for money. For twelve seasons, American Greed has examined the most extensive corporate and white-collar crimes in American history. The documentary series currently airs new episodes on the CNBC network on Monday nights at 10 PM EST.

In the interview, Jenice Malecki leveraged her knowledge as an experienced securities attorney to answer questions about affinity fraud. Affinity fraud is a type of investment scam that targets members of the same identifiable groups based on religion, ethnicity, age and other commonalities.  Typically, an affinity fraud perpetrator will be or at least pose as a member of the group to exploit trust and relationships. Otherwise, the fraudster might elicit the help of a group member to orchestrate the scam, which is frequently a Ponzi or pyramid scheme.

In this segment, Jenice Malecki describes affinity fraud along with the telltale signs that should induce concern. Notably, Jenice Malecki emphasizes the importance for investors to do their due diligence in gathering information before investing. With this in mind, the seller should be able to provide information regarding the investment’s purpose, objective data, and history. Furthermore, Jenice Malecki offers helpful tips for anyone suspecting affinity fraud to respond appropriately to the situation.

Last week, Malecki Law filed an amended FINRA arbitration complaint against Securities America on behalf of victims claiming that the broker-dealer’s inadequate supervision over its registered representative, Hector May, permitted his alleged Ponzi Scheme to happen. Securities America failed to act as Hector May sold fictitious “tax-free” corporate bonds from his New City Securities America office with his Securities America approved Registered Investment Advisory business, Executive Compensation Planners. The amended complaint adds two pension plans as additional plaintiffs joining the original nine victims specified in the June 18th filing. Our announcement of the filing to the press piqued the interest of the media including a reporter who interviewed attorney Jenice Malecki for an article in Lohud, as well as an article in Financial Planning magazine.

Hector May was formerly a Securities America registered representative, who reportedly managed more than $18 million in assets according to his Form ADV. Before the alleged Ponzi scheme surfaced, Hector May was an influential community member who donated to charities and political candidates. Claimants alleged that Hector May simply used his community status to issue, solicit and sell these non-existent securities products. Now, Hector May is being investigated by multiple government agencies for alleged fraud resulting in millions of dollars bilked from unsuspecting investors. Of course, Hector May refuses to provide answers regarding the whereabouts of the invested funds or any further details about the transaction activities in dispute.

The amended complaint now alleges that Hector May also stole money from two New York company’s pension plans while running his Securities America branch office.  The newly added pension plans’ beneficiaries were allegedly sold fictitious “tax-free” corporate bonds. Hector May allegedly told company beneficiaries not to worry since their invested money would be in “safe places” under his RIA with Securities America. Hector May’s reassuring comment could not be further from the truth, hidden by his falsely produced employee benefit plan and annual reports. Consequently, company employees have been defrauded out of millions of dollars that had been intended to be their income upon retirement.

Malecki Law was featured in the news for filing a FINRA arbitration claim on behalf of investors alleging that Securities America failed to perform proper supervisory duties as their formerly registered broker, Hector May allegedly operated a Ponzi Scheme. In the Financial Planning article, investor fraud attorney Jenice Malecki provides additional information and commentary on her representation of nine clients against Securities America. Financial Planning provides breaking and daily news coverage as well as analysis to help independent financial advisors better their business, practice and client services. Readership often includes independent broker-dealers, financial planners and other industry professionals seeking insights into the highly regulated securities industry. Malecki Law spoke with Financial Planning to spread the message so that other innocent victims who lost their hard-earned savings may seek justice.

Investor fraud attorney, Jenice Malecki released more details regarding the specific allegations relating to Hector May’s allegedly fraudulent practices against investing clients to Financial Planning in hopes of raising awareness. Allegedly, victims of the New City broker’s Ponzi scheme were under the impression that Hector May invested their money into “tax-free” bond products from firms like General Electric. The clients later learned alleged Ponzi Schemer’s “tax-free” bond products were non-existent and apparently just words on false account statements.  When asked for a comment, Hector May’s attorney declined to provide a comment regarding a case started by a law firm placing ads in the newspaper for clients.

The clients are filing the claim only against Securities America since Hector May already had assets frozen and could not pay the award, Jenice Malecki commented.  FINRA rules place broker-dealers at fault for investment losses resulting from their failure to properly supervise and detect a Ponzi Scheme committed by their registered representative. Securities America had an obligation to monitor Hector May’s activities, including the fraud that transpired. Clients are claiming that Securities America missed many “red flags” that would have clued off a Ponzi Scheme.

Malecki Law filed an expedited FINRA arbitration complaint today on behalf of nine investors from Upstate New York, Northern Virginia and Long Island, New York alleging that Securities America, Inc. failed to supervise its registered representative Hector May and failed to audit his remote Securities America office, which it is alleged in essence allowed his alleged Ponzi-type fraud to persist for many years. Through these alleged supervisory shortcomings, it is alleged that Securities America’s Inc. aided and abetted fraudulent practices conducted by its registered representative as well as in his disclosed, approved SEC-registered investment advisor, Executive Compensation Planners, Inc. “At some point, a license to sell securities can become a license to steal when there is inadequate supervision of these remote brokerage firm offices,” offered well-known securities attorney Jenice Malecki.

Executive Compensation Planners was supposed to solicit wrap fee programs through Securities America, according to its Form ADV filed with the SEC.  Instead, as alleged in the FINRA pleading, Hector May had wires sent and checks written directly to Executive Compensation Planners; created fictitious statements; and pocketed client funds. Hector May reported managing $18 million in his Form ADV. Mr. May’s FINRA BrokerCheck report indicates that Hector May, who had been with Securities America since 1998, was terminated for misappropriation of clients’ assets just after the Department of Justice initiated a criminal investigation into his suspected felony, along with investigations by the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Prior to his alleged conduct coming to light, Hector May was widely known with an excellent reputation within his New York Community, often sponsoring charities – “clients now want to know if he was using their money to be charitable,” said Jenice L. Malecki, Esq., a securities lawyer in New York.  Mr. May’s wife, daughter and other family members are alleged to have worked with him.