Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

LJM Partners is suing a number of unnamed parties after losing hundreds of millions of dollars during a major incident of stock market volatility early last year now known as “Vol-magedon.” The Chicago-based fund manager and commodity trading advisor (CTA) claims that these losses are what forced it to go out of business.

LJM had backed complex derivatives, which plunged in value after the largest ever one-day jump in the VIX volatility index in February 2018. The fund manager later gave back what was left of clients’ funds and shuttered its operations.

While LJM held $812M in assets at the start of that month, by the end of February, that figure had dwindled to $14M. One of its affiliates, which operated the LJM Preservation and Growth Fund—a mutual fund for retail investors—lost half its value due to the VIX volatility index jump. The fund then went on to lose the rest of its value as it unwound its holdings.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed civil fraud charges accusing 15 people of either “acting as unregistered brokers” or “aiding-and-abetting” this kind of activity related to the solicitation of microcap issuer Intertech Solution’s “unregistered and fraudulent securities offerings.” Already, 11 of the defendants have consented to the entry of final judgments but without denying or admitting to wrongdoing.

The 15 individuals are:

    • Daniel Broyles

Ex-Woodbridge Group of Companies CEO and owner Robert Shapiro and former Woodbridge directors Ivan Acevedo and Dane R. Roseman are now facing criminal charges over their alleged involvement in operating a $1.2B Ponzi scam that went on from ’12 to ’17. All three men were arrested and appeared in federal court last week.

Woodbridge and its 281 related companies are accused of defrauding over 8,400 retail investors, including many senior investors who lost retirement money as a result. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) 2017 complaint against Shapiro, Woodbridge, and the related companies, investors were promised yearly returns of up to 5 to 8%. Payments were supposedly from the interest paid to an affiliate on loans issued to third party borrowers. However, contends the SEC, there were not enough third-party borrowers to pay the thousands of investors involved, resulting in just under $14M in interest income. Newer investors’ funds were allegedly used to pay earlier investors.

Woodbridge and the companies settled the regulator’s case last year by agreeing to pay over $1B, including disgorging $892M in ill-gotten gains. Shapiro’s settlement involved a $100M penalty and disgorgement of $18.5M plus $2.1M in prejudgment interest. Now, with the criminal case, Shapiro is charged with tax evasion and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Just weeks after Direct Lending Investments (DLI) announced to private fund investors that it was suspending redemptions and withdrawals after one borrower defaulted on a $191.3M loan, the  US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed civil charges against the registered investment adviser (RIA). The regulator contends that Direct Lending engaged in a multi-year, $11M fraud that allegedly involved overcharging clients for both performance and management fees related to private funds, as well as for inflating fund returns.

The RIA advises private funds, which includes a private fund structure made up of the feeder funds Direct Lending Income Feeder Fund, Ltd. and the Direct Lending Income Fund, LP. The funds invest in different lending platforms, including the online small business lender QuarterSpot.

The SEC, in its complaint, is accusing Direct Lending owner Brendan Ross of making a deal that allowed QuarterSpot to “falsify borrower payment information” for its loans and “falsely report” to the RIA that borrowers had submitted hundreds of monthly payments when this was not true at all. The regulator contends that a significant number of these loans should have been given a zero valuation rather than their “full value.” Because of this, the SEC alleges, between 2014 and 2017 the valuation of QuarterSpot’s position was “cumulatively overstated” by about $53M, which caused the Funds’ performance to be misrepresented by about 3% yearly. Meantime, Direct Lending allegedly collected about $11M in excess fees from the Funds.

Raymond Montoya, a former Boston hedge fund manager, is sentenced to 14 years in prison. According to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, Montoya, 70, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, and charging an unlawful monetary transaction after the government accused him of deceiving investors of his RMA Strategy Opportunity Fund and costing them more than $30M.

The ex-hedge fund manager and owner of Research Magnate Advisors admitted to stealing money to support his luxury lifestyle. Some of his victims were his own friends and relatives.

Investors in the RMA Strategy Opportunity Fund were under the impression that the fund held more money than it actually did. Meanwhile, Montoya falsely touted possession of proprietary software that could help make wise investment choices involving bonds and stocks and would supposedly lead to returns. The investor fraud went on from at least 2009 to about mid-2017, which is when Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin brought a civil fraud case against Montoya.

Cameron Jezierski, a Texas resident, has pleaded guilty to charges tying him to a Ponzi scam that defrauded over 400 investors of $360M. Jezierski and two other men, Jay Ledford, also of Texas, and Kevin Merrill were indicted last year for money laundering, identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy.

They allegedly persuaded investors to buy consumer debt portfolios that had defaulted by claiming that money could be made either through collecting on the debts or by selling the portfolios to third-party debt buyers. The investors who were harmed included restaurateurs, small business owners, retirees, construction workers, financial advisers, professional athletes, and other working professionals. However, instead of investing the money as promised, the three men allegedly used most of the funds on their lavish lifestyles or to pay earlier investors in a Ponzi scam-like fashion.

In the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investor fraud case against the three men, which was brought last year, the regulator’s complaint said that of the money raised by investors, more than $90M came from over 200 individual investors, almost $203M was from feeder funds made up mostly of individual investors, and $52M came from family offices.

Dennis Gibb, an investment adviser and the owner/president of Sweetwater Investments Inc., has pleaded guilty to falsification of records and wire fraud. Gibb has also settled parallel civil charges brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in which part of that deal involves the liquidation of his Sweetwater Income Flood LP Fund.

Gibb set up the private fund in 2008. The year before, he started to solicit prospective investors who were looking for consistent retirement money. The SEC said that between those two years, at least 15 investors put approximately $7.3M in the Sweetwater Income Flood fund.

According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, Gibb defrauded about 15 investors of over $3M. He touted a sophisticated investment approach that in part involved investing in government bonds with the intent to generate “stable returns.” Meantime, even as Gibb stole investors’ money for his own use, he was telling them that the private fund had $7.8M when, in actuality, it was holding less than $2M.

Investors in supposed “Yield Enhancement” strategies are learning that the purported safe investment program has significant risk. The Yield Enhancement Strategy (YES) that UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) and other brokerage firms used was marketed as a “safe and efficient” way to enhance the return on a conservative portfolio.

The YES program was represented as an investment program that involved using options strategies that produced small returns but with small risks. UBS is one of a number of brokerage firms that touted the YES approach to customers as a way to make money via the “strategic” buying and selling of SPX index options spreads. The returns were purportedly “incremental” to “underlying asset returns” while giving clients a chance to possibly make money from low yield assets.

Seeking Alpha reports that the brokerage firm told clients that their UBS Yield Enhancement Strategy involved allowing a “mandate” or margin to be placed against their respective portfolios and that this would then be used, via an “iron condor” options trading strategy, to generate returns. It was these particular investors that have sustained the greatest losses when excessive volatility in December—the most that the market has encountered in 30 years—caused the YES strategy to fall.

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin has filed civil charges accusing Oakdale Wealth Management financial advisors Michael O’Keefe and James Daly of using over $11M of client assets to make risky bets on oil and gas investments. The state regulator accused them of employing a “one-size-fits-all” approach when managing investors’ money. Oakdale Wealth Management is a registered investment advisor (RIA) that the two men founded in 2006.

According to Galvin’s complaint, Daly and O’Keefe gambled away clients’ money in the oil and gas market. The two investment advisors are accused of spending more than $11M of investors’ funds to make 2000 energy-related investment purchases, including Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). Their victims included a number of senior citizens who were saving money to retire, blue-collar workers, a charitable organization, and a widow.

The Massachusetts regulator contends that even though the risk tolerance levels, investment goals, and financial situations of Oakdale’s clients varied, the two financial advisers made the decision to place almost all of them in high-risk, publicly traded investments related to energy, including oil and gas investments. This, even as the firm’s written policies and procedures articulated that investment decisions would be specifically tailored according to each client’s goals and the degree of risk they could handle.

Just days after InvestmentNews reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now investigating alternative investment management firm GPB Capital Holdings, ProPublica is reporting that the FBI and regulators from New York City’s Business Integrity Commission (BIC) have raided the corporate offices of GPB Waste NY, which is the private trash hauling company once known as Five Star Carting that GPB Capital Holdings acquired in 2017. The raid reportedly involved a search warrant from the US Attorney’s Office to gather materials.

Aside from the FBI, GPB Capital Holdings is already under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, and Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is investigating more than 60 brokerage firms that sold GPB Capital Holdings-related private placements to investors. However, public filings submitted to the SEC note that there were about 80 brokerage firms in the US at least authorized to sell investments to clients on behalf of GPB.

GPB Capital Holdings primarily invests in auto dealerships. However, it also purchases private trash hauling companies. NYC’s BIC is responsible for looking into possible misconduct or corruption involving the private trash industry in the city. Five Star, according to ProPublica, had previously dealt with a “troubled labor and safety record,” including government inspections that found that the company used unsafe trucks.

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