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Articles Posted in Ponzi Scams

Already under scrutiny for suspending its sale of private placements, along with redemptions to investors, GPB Capital Holdings now has to explain why its accountant, Crowe LLP, has resigned as the alternative asset management firm’s auditor. GPB Capital had announced a few months ago that it was undergoing an accounting overhaul and that this was why it had failed to submit financial statements for its two biggest funds – the GPB Holdings II and the GPB Automotive Portfolio – to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier this year. These private placements primarily invest in waste management businesses and car dealerships.

According to GPB Capital CEO David Gentile, Crowe has resigned because of “perceived risks” that the accounting firm felt were outside its “internal risk tolerance parameters.” GPB Capital has since retained EisnerAmper, LLP as its replacement auditor.

Such a significant change at such an important time period should raise significant concerns to those who have invested in GPB Capital Holdings private placement deals. GPB Capital Holdings has at least nine different funds including the two mentioned above (GPB Automotive Portfolio and GPB Holdings II) as well as GPB Holdings III, GPB Cold Storage, GPB NY Development and GPB Waste Management.


Former Financial Adviser Now Facing Years in Prison for $20M Investor Fraud

Dawn Bennett, an ex-financial adviser and the operator of Bennett Financial Group Services, has been convicted of 17 criminal charges, including securities fraud, conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements on a loan application. It took a federal jury less than five hours to convict her for  a $20M ponzi scam that defrauded nearly four dozen investors, including many older investors and retirees. Some of her advisory clients took money out of their retirement accounts to invest with Bennett.

Prosecutors contend that the former financial adviser, who is also an ex-radio show host, used investors’ money to pay back earlier investors in Ponzi-like fashion and to fund her luxury lifestyle. This purportedly included paying priests in India to conduct religious ceremonies to keep regulators away, a $500K luxury suite at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, and cosmetic surgery procedures.

Wayde McKelvy, who is accused of playing a key role in a $54M Ponzi scam that targeted unsophisticated investors, is on trial before a federal jury. According to the US government, McKelvy, who is a former co-owner of Mantria Corp., and two others allegedly sold fake investments in green energy and land to investors, including retirees and widows, and then used the funds to support their luxury lifestyles.

Investors were promised up to 50% returns on a supposed new charcoal substitute comprised of organic waste, as well as on real estate in Tennessee. The land, however, was never developed.

Meantime, investors were told that the Tennessee land was valued at over $100M. Through Mantria Financial, the alleged co-conspirators assisted investors in purchasing investments in both the land deals and the charcoal substitute, known as “biochar.”


Former Michigan Financial Adviser Faces SEC Charges in $2.7M Investment Scam that Defrauded Seniors

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Ernest J. Romer III, a former Michigan-based financial adviser with 47 disclosures on his Broker-Check record and who was barred by FINRA last year. Romer also pleaded no contest to embezzlement in July and is awaiting his sentence. According to the regulator, between 2014 and 2016, the ex-financial adviser defrauded unsophisticated investors and older retirees of $2.7M.

The regulator contends that Romer convinced at least 30 clients to “sell securities in their brokerage accounts” and transfer their proceeds to the companies CoreCap Solutions or P & R Capital. He purportedly gave them the impression that these were affiliated brokerage firms when, in fact, they were businesses that Romer owned. Many of these investors entrusted him with their life savings.

It wasn’t bad enough that over 10,000 investors, many of them retirees and other retail investors, were bilked in the $1.2B Woodbridge Ponzi scam. Now, they are allowed to borrow against what they hope to recover after the bankrupt real estate developer’s assets are liquidated but they must pay a 16% interest rate to do so.

While the rate isn’t necessarily wrong or unfair on the part of hedge fund lender Axar Capital Management—it was the investors that went to the Delaware Bankruptcy court seeking a $215M loan facility so that they could access their funds until Woodbridge’s bankruptcy proceedings are settled—the rate is still a steep sum considering that they thought that their investments would garner an approximately 8% return.

SEC Goes After Woodbridge

Investors who placed their funds in the Texas-based United Development Funding IV real estate investment trust are asking a federal judge to approve a $13.5M REIT fraud settlement they’d reached with the company over the allegations that it had been run like a Ponzi-like scam and concealed this. The plaintiffs contend that UDV IV and its affiliates not only made false statements but also they did not disclose material facts involving business and operations.

They brought their REIT fraud case against the UDF companies three years ago, accusing the defendants of using investors’ funds from newer offering to pay investors who had gotten involved in earlier offerings. The investors, who want class certification, alleged that disclosures they were offered were misleading and lending practices lacked transparency.

Both sides eventually arrived at the $13.5M settlement—$10.5M in cash and another $3M once the REIT hits its $75M cash flow target in two years. This deal is separate from a settlement the plaintiffs reached with UDF accountants, as well as those that underwrote and sold the allegedly fraudulent offerings.

Top10-3Five unregistered brokers and their companies are now facing US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of selling Woodbridge securities to investors even though they were not registered as broker-dealers and therefore were not allowed to sell these securities. The defendants allegedly made millions of dollars from the Woodbridge securities sales.

The unregistered brokers and their companies are Barry and Ferne Kornfeld and Fek Enterprises, Andrew G. Costa and Costa Financial Insurance Services Corp., Albert D. Klager and Atlantic Insurance & Financial Services Inc., and Lynette M. Robbins and Knowles Systems, Inc. They allegedly sold over $243M of Woodbridge unregistered securities to over 1600 retail investors.

According to the regulator’s complaints, the unregistered brokers and the companies marketed Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC as an investment that was “safe and secure.” Woodbridge, however, declared bankruptcy last December. The moment Woodbridge filed for bankruptcy protection, investors stopped receiving the interest they were due each month and they still haven’t received a return on their principal.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing Equitybuild Inc., a real estate investment firm that is based in Florida, and its owners of operating a $135M Ponzi scam that defrauded approximately 900 investors. The regulator contends that the company, its President/CEO Jerome Cohen, and Vice President Shaun Cohen, who are father and son, promised investors double-digit returns of 12-20%, even as their business was incurring massive losses. Meantime, investors were paid returns using earlier investors’ money in Ponzi-like fashion.

Equitybuild investors were mostly unsophisticated, non-accredited investors without much experience in investing in real estate. The Cohens allegedly touted a purportedly original strategy for identifying an undervalued property in Chicago, Illinois’ South Side that they claimed would render huge returns. Investors were promised promissory notes that named a specific property. Third parties were supposed to buy the properties with mortgages that the investors had funded and this would generate returns.

Unfortunately, there don’t appear to have been many third-party buyers. Equitybuild was the one that owned most of the properties and the real estate investment company purportedly stopped searching for third-party buyers a few years ago.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges in an alleged $85M Ponzi scam that may have defrauded at least 150 investors. The defendants in the civil case are Arthur Lamar Adams and his Madison Timber Properties, LLC. Prosecutors have brought a parallel criminal case against Adams charging him with two counts of wire fraud. They contend that Adams’ fraud ran from 2011 through last month and his Ponzi scam involved fraudulently securing over $100M from over 250 investors in at least 14 states.

Adams Allegedly Provided False Information to Investors in the Ponzi scam involving his business Madison Timber Properties.

According to the regulator’s complaint, Adams lied when he told investors that their funds would go toward obtaining and harvesting timber from different land owners. He also promised 12-15% yearly returns. In truth, contends the SEC, Adam’s company did not have harvesting rights and Adams allegedly forged documents, deeds, and cutting agreements. The regulator is accusing Adams and Madison Timber Properties of violating the federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions, making untrue statements and omissions, and committing fraud through their business actions. A court has approved the regulator’s request for an asset freeze

According to New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office and Division of Consumer Affairs, JB Financial Resources and its owner Jeffrey Mitchell Isaacs must pay a $750K for allegedly selling NJ investors over $7M in unregistered securities connected to the $1.2B Woodbridge Ponzi Scam. More than 8,500 people are said to have been defrauded nationally in that scheme before its demise last year.

The state of New Jersey contends that JB Financial Resources and Isaacs sold about 88 unregistered securities on behalf of the Woodbridge Group of Companies. Isaac’s other entity, JMI Associates  LLC, is also accused of promoting and selling unregistered investments, including first position commercial mortgage securities (FPCMs)  tied to Woodbridge in NJ.

Marketing collateral touted the unregistered securities as a “unique lending opportunity.” Sale proceeds would reportedly be used by the Woodbridge Funds to issue commercial loans to commercial borrowers. Instead, the FPCMs sold to NJ investors were not collateralized right away. In certain instances, borrowers did not get the loans for weeks or months after investors bought them.

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