Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement

William Neil Gallagher, a Dallas area-based radio host based who calls himself the “Money Doctor,” is now facing securities fraud charges accusing him and his companies, Gallagher Financial Group and W. Neil Gallagher, PhD Agency, Inc., of seeking to defraud older investors of their retirement money in a $19.6M Texas-based Ponzi scam/affinity fraud. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought the civil fraud charges against them.

According to the SEC’s complaint, from 12/2014 through 1/2019, Gallagher, who is based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, raised at least $19.6M (maybe even up to more than $29M) from about 60 elderly investors ranging in age from about 60 to the early 90’s. He allegedly did this through his companies in what the regulator is referring to as an “affinity fraud investment scam” that is also a Ponzi scheme.

Gallagher is accused of using his radio shows to target retired Christian investors, who were his radio audience, and to whom he ingratiated himself by often making religious references on his shows. He also allegedly urged radio listeners to call GFC to set up meetings, during which he would help them with their retirement plans and give them advice regarding how to make money without having to take on any risks.

According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Wedbush Securities has settled allegations accusing the brokerage firm of failing to supervise one of its former registered representatives, Timary Delorme, who is accused of engaging in a pump-and-dump fraud that harmed retail investors. As part of the settlement, Wedbush consented to a censure and will pay a $250K penalty.

The SEC filed this civil securities case against Wedbush a year ago, accusing the broker-dealer of not properly investigating red flags indicating that Delorme might have been defrauding investors. The former Wedbush broker is accused of, from 2008 to 2014, receiving payments, which were issued to her husband,  in exchange for recommending to investors that they make certain trades that were then used in the pump-and-dump fraud.

The regulator said that Wedbush even disregarded an email from a customer reporting the fraud, as well as a number of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitrations claims and inquiries over Delorme’s trading activities involving penny stocks. Instead, contends the Commission, Wedbush performed two inadequate probes into the allegations against its former broker but didn’t take proper action.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has secured a final judgment against ex-Alexander Capital broker William Gennity, who is accused of excessive churning in clients’ brokerage accounts. Gennity, whom the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) had earlier suspended, will pay nearly $128K in disgorgement, nearly $15K in prejudgment interest, and a $160K civil penalty.

The SEC’s complaint accused Gennity of recommending costly, “in-and-out trading” to four clients between 7/2012 and 8/2014 without having any reasonable grounds for thinking that doing so would cause them to make money. Instead, they lost money as a result, while Gennity made money. The alleged churning purportedly took place while he was an Alexander Capital broker.

Churning typically involves a broker engaging in trades in order to earn more commissions.

Just a few weeks after former Wells Fargo (WFC) broker John Gregory Schmidt consented to a final judgment in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investor fraud case against him, the regulator announced that it has barred Schmidt for misappropriating more than $1.3M from clients, most of them elderly retired investors. Schmidt, who also ran Schmitt Investment Strategies Group in Ohio and was already barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra), was fired by Wells Fargo in 2017. In a parallel criminal case, he is also charged with 128 felony counts over the same fraud allegations.

The SEC’s complaint notes that at the time that Wells Fargo fired Schmidt, he had about 325 retail brokerage customers. At least half of them had worked with him for over a decade, and a “significant percentage” were retirees who depended on regular withdrawals from their brokerage accounts to cover their living expenses. Many of them were unsophisticated, inexperienced investors, some of whom were suffering from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Schmidt’s scam purportedly involved making unauthorized sales and withdrawals involving variable annuities from certain customers’ accounts and then using fraudulent authorization letters to move the money to the other clients’ accounts. According to the Commission’s complaint, between ’03 and ’17, Schmidt took money out of seven clients’ accounts and moved the funds to the accounts of other clients to conceal shortfalls there.

Brokerage firm and investment adviser BB&T Securities has agreed to give back over $5M to retail investors, as well as pay the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a $500K penalty, to resolve charges that Valley Forge Asset Management misled advisory clients into thinking they were getting complete “full-service brokerage services in-house” at an up to 70% reduced rate, even as less costly alternatives were available. BB&T Corp. previously acquired Valley Forge, now a subsidiary called Sterling Advisors.

The regulator contends in its order that Valley Forge, which was registered as a broker and investment advisor, made “misleading statements and inadequate disclosures” about these services and their prices to persuade customers to retain their in-house services. Meantime, Valley Forge purportedly failed to give these advisory clients more services than what they provided to their other advisory clients who had selected other brokerage options. These options charged substantially lower commissions—about 4.5 times less than what the firm charged for its full-service in-house broker services. This, even as those who had chosen the in-house broker services were led to believe they would be getting a “high level of service at a low cost” and beyond what the other clients were getting from the firm.

The SEC is accusing Valley Forge of placing its own interests before that of its advisory clients, costing them money in higher commissions so that the firm could profit. The regulator noted that it was the firm’s duty to fully disclose any material facts to its advisory clients that could impact their relationship, including conflicts of interest. Such disclosures are important so that a client is able to give their informed consent (or not) to these conflicts.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed fraud charges against Castleberry Financial Services, its president T. Jonathon Turner, and CEO Norman M. Strell accusing them of running an investment fund scam that defrauded at least investors of $3.6M in the last year and continues to solicit new investors. The regulator also announced an asset freeze against the company’s operators. Based in Florida, Castleberry, which is a limited liability company, and its investment offerings are not registered with the SEC.

According to the Commission’s emergency action:

  • Castleberry falsely represented that it had hundreds of investment properties in its portfolio, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars invested in local businesses. Biz Journals reported that Castleberry touted itself as an alternative investment manager overseeing nearly $800M in capital. Also, in reality, the company never made significant revenue from investments.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Statim Holdings, Inc. and its owner Atlanta investment adviser, Joseph A. Meyer. The regulator is accusing them of defrauding the private fund Arjun L.P., which they managed, and its investors.

Arjun, set up by Meyer in 2007, is a pooled investment vehicle. Its records indicate that its assets under management have never gone over $45M. By the middle of 2009, about 40 investors had invested in the fund, which had lost almost 36% of its value as a result of trading losses.

However, Meyer reported high return rates for Arjun, which caused investors to jump on board. In 2015, Bloomberg News and other services even ranked Arjun as among the best performing hedge funds. Yet it was also at around this time that then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is now governor, notified Bloomberg that his office was looking into “irregularities” involving Arjun and its owner. The following year, Bloomberg raised questions about Arjun’s performance. In 2017, the SEC opened its own probe into the hedge fund firm and its owner.

A federal court has ordered the Woodbridge Group of Companies and its former CEO and owner Robert H. Shapiro to pay $1B in disgorgement and penalties for allegedly running a $1.2B Ponzi scam that victimized 8,400 retail investors, including many senior investors who ended up losing their retirement money. Of this $1B, Woodbridge and its 281 related companies must pay $892M in disgorgement. Shapiro must disgorge $18.5M in ill-gotten gains, as well as pay $2.1 in prejudgment interest and a $100M civil penalty.

In 2017, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed charges against Woodbridge, which it called a “group of unregistered investment companies,” and other defendants. The regulator contends that Woodbridge claimed that its main business was to issue loans to third-party commercial property owners. The defendant allegedly promised investors 5-10% in interest yearly. The company’s marketing materials touted an “over 90% renewal rate” from investors because of “proven results.”

The SEC said that the reality was that most of these supposed third-party borrowers were, in fact, companies that Shapiro owned. They purportedly made no income and did not pay interest on any of these supposed loans.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Phillip Michael Carter, Bobby Eugene Guess, Richard Tilford, and several entities accusing them of operating a multi-million dollar offering fraud. The regulator contends that the three men raised nearly $45 million from more than 270 investors in the US through the sale of high-yield, short-term promissory notes that were touted to prospective buyers as low-risk.

According to the SEC, investors thought they were getting involved in actual real estate development companies but instead ended up buying securities from entities with no assets. Carter, who is the principal of North Forty Development LLC and Texas Cash Cow Investments, is accused of then misappropriating $1.2M in investor funds for his own expenses, including a personal IRS tax lien and to operate a luxury hunting ranch. He also allegedly made over $3M in Ponzi payments that were issued to investors.

Now, the defendants are accused of offering and selling unregistered securities, violating the Exchange Act and the Securities Act, and acting as unlicensed brokers. The entities that are relief defendants in the case include:

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against a number of companies and brokers who illegally sold Woodbridge Group of Companies securities to retail investors. Woodbridge, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, its owner Robert H. Shapiro, and several others have since been charged with running a $1.2B Ponzi scam that defrauded nearly 8,500 investors. Many of their victims were older investors who together took almost $400M out of their IRA to invest in the securities.

Now, the SEC is charging 13 unregistered brokers that were among the top sellers of Woodbridge securities. Collectively, they allegedly sold over $350M in the unregistered securities to more than 4,400 investors. The regulator contends that the defendants promoted the Woodbridge securities as “safe” investments, making millions of dollars in commissions from the sales even though they were not registered brokers or even affiliated with a registered brokerage firm and should never have sold the Woodbridge investments to begin with. The brokers named in the SEC broker fraud case include:

• Robert S. Davis, Jr., the VP of Old Securities Financial Group

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