Articles Posted in SEC

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Ameratex Energy, Inc., Lewis Oil Company, Lewis Oil Corp., their CEO Thomas Lewis, and ex-Ameratex President William Fort over their alleged involvement in an $11.7M Texas oil and gas offering fraud. The companies are based in Plano, Texas.

According to the regulator, the companies and the two men sold unregistered securities to more than 150 investors while making misleading statements about how the proceeds would be used. They also allegedly provided false information regarding prospect wells and sales commissions, as well as provided “false guarantees” regarding the lending out and mingling of funds.

The securities that they offered were not registered with the SEC. The individuals selling the investments were not licensed brokers or associated with brokers that were registered.

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SEC Accused Investment Adviser of Profiting from Cherry Picking

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil fraud case against Strong Investment Management, which is a California-based investment adviser, and its president/owner Joseph B. Bronson. The regulator is accusing them of running a cherry picking scam that defrauded the firm’s clients.

The Commission contends that Bronson used Strong’s omnibus account to trade securities but would wait to see how they performed during the day before distributing them to certain client accounts. Meantime, Bronson purportedly made healthy profits at cost to clients by cherry picking the trades. He is accused of giving himself trades that were profitable while sending unprofitable ones to firm clients.

The SEC’s complaint contends that in Forms ADV, Bronson and Strong misrepresented trading and allocation practices by falsely stating that every trade would be allocated according to the terms of pre-trade allocation statements with no preference granted to any account. Bronson’s brother, ex-Strong chief compliance officer John B. Engebreston, is accused of not fulfilling his job by failing to make sure that Strong’s policies and procedures for trade allocation were followed. He also is accused of “repeatedly” ignoring “red flags” when it came to Strong’s allocation practices.

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SEC Accuses Atlanta Man of Misusing Over $1.2M in Investor Funds

In an enforcement action, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing Timothy S. Batchelor of misusing over $1.2M in investor monies. The funds were supposed to go toward the development of a submarine vessel and to businesses involved in national security.

According to the regulator’s complaint, of the $2.4M that Batchelor raised from investors through the Specter Ventures Fund II, he improperly spent half of the money, including almost $250K to buy new cars and about $225K to cover student loans. He allegedly moved thousands of dollars in investor monies to his own relatives. Batchelor also is accused of trying to conceal his actions by faking a document that misrepresented unauthorized expenditures as a loan.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is warning investors to watch out for financial schemes in which the fraudsters are pretending to be the self-regulatory organization. FINRA released its Investor Alert noting that there have been scammers using its FINRA logo and name. In some instances they are even forging the signature of FINRA president and CEO Robert W. Cook to try and solicit funds for fraudulent investments. Use of FINRA’s name appears to be geared toward making the scheme appear legitimate.

For example, an investor contacted the SRO to report one instance that purportedly involved the fraudster sending a letter that was supposedly from Cook and guaranteeing a proposed investment. The letter, however, had a number of errors, including mistakes involving FINRA’s name and its leadership titles. Another alleged fraud involved e-mail pitches, again purportedly from Cook. The correspondence told targets that their outstanding inheritance fund had been “approved for release.” They were instructed to go abroad (beyond the jurisdiction of US authorities or regulators) to obtain this money. Meantime, the targets were asked to share certain personal data.

A regulator imposter fraud might ask the victim to pay an advanced fee. In such scams, investors are asked to pay certain fees related to the purchase of stock shares that, in truth, are not doing well or are “virtually worthless.” However, upon sending the funds, investors rarely see the money returned to them or the funds that a stock buyback was supposed to render. The fraudster may even ask for more money.

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Businessman Settles SEC Case Over Immigrant Visa-Related Investor Scam

Ariel Quiros, a businessman accused of defrauding foreign investors seeking to earn US residency through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, has agreed to the settle the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against him. As part of the settlement, which a court still has to approve, Quiros will be held liable for over $81M in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and a $1M penalty. He also has to forfeit about $417K.

Over 700 investors from at least 75 nations invested with Quiros. Their funds were supposed to go toward “construction projects at the Jay Peak Resort and a proposed (nearby) biomedical research facility,” said the SEC. Instead, contends the regulator, Quiros misused over $50M to buy another ski resort and pay for his own spending, including the purchase of two luxury condos. He also failed to direct about $30M to the construction projects, which was necessary for these investors to become US residents.

Now, Quiros must give up the two condos and the resort that he bought using investors’ funds, as well as surrender his ownership stake in Jay Peak and many other properties.

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In the criminal case brought against them, two ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) investment advisers, James S. Polese and Cornelius Peterson, have pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against them. Polese was charged with conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, investment adviser fraud, and multiple counts of bank fraud. Peterson is charged with conspiracy, investment adviser fraud, and bank fraud.

In a parallel civil case, the US Securities and Exchange Commission claims that beginning in 2014, the two men defrauded three clients of almost half a million dollars. The allegations include:

*Stealing almost $450K from one client and using the funds to make their own investments and pay for Polese’s credit card bills and the college tuition of his children.
*Using a client’s assets to obtain loan financing for an entity in which they were investors.
*Investing client monies in a venture in which they both had a financial stake without telling the client.
*Getting a loan with unfavorable terms for a client.
*Charging one client advisory fees that were 50% more than what he told her they would be.

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The SEC has put a stop to Dallas-based AriseBank’s initial coin offering. The regulator contends that AriseBank, which touts itself as the first “decentralized bank” in the world, and its principals are committing Texas financial fraud, and they’ve targeted retail investors, including Texas investors, in an effort to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now, the Commission has a court order to stop the sale of AriseCoin cryptocurrency, which it says are unregistered investments. The regulator called the ICO an “illegal offering” of said securities and it accused the company of engaging in an “outright” scam.

AriseBank reportedly sought to raise $1B during its ICO, which began in late December and was scheduled to end later month. Investors were supposed to receive their distributions on February 10.

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Woodbridge to Appoint New Board to Run the Property Developer, Will Pay for Investor Fraud Lawyers
Woodbridge Group of Companies and the US Securities and Exchange Commission have come to an agreement that a New Board of Managers will be appointed to oversee the bankrupt property developer. The company, which is accused of running a $1.2B Ponzi scam, will pay for legal representation for its investors that continue to grapple with losses they may have sustained in the alleged fraud. Some 8,400 investors gave their money to Woodbridge.

Woodbridge owner Robert Shapiro is accused of owing over $961M to investors, many of them elderly investors, who purchased securities from the company while under the impression that they’d be guaranteed up to 8% interest. Investors were told that their money would be lent out to companies in exchange for up to 15% interest when, in fact, contends the SEC, these developers were entities that Shapiro himself controlled.

Shapiro, who is accused of taking at least $21M of investors’ funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle, denies the SEC’s allegations.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered the suspension trading in UBI Blockchain Internet Ltd.(UBIA) stock. The company’s stock rose over 900% last year in the wake of the popularity of digital currencies.

Now, the SEC has temporarily halted the sale and purchase of UBI BLockChain stock because of market activity that it describes as “unusual and unexplained” since at least November of last year involving the company’s Class A common stock.

It also has questions regarding the accuracy of claims that the company made in financial statements. Addressing the SEC’s move, UBI Blockchain CEO Tony Liu contended that his company, which touts blockchain technology, is not the same as bitcoin companies.

UBI Blockchain, which is based in Hong Kong, claims that it wants to utilize the decentralized-ledge technology of blockchain so that consumers can track the “original source” of a drug or food product. Two weeks ago, in a 3-to-1 trading split, the company’s market value hit over $1B. It’s current market value is more than $800M.

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The SEC has filed fraud charge against Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc. and its former CEO Ray C. Davis. According to the Commission, the Houston-based technology company, and Davis solicited over $28M from hundreds of investors, diverting over $7.8M to the latter’s personal use.

Between 1/2013 and 7/2015, investors targeted in the alleged Texas securities scam were solicited for funds and their involvement in seven equity securities offerings. “Material misrepresentations and misleading statements” were allegedly made to them about: how investor proceeds would be used, executive compensation, operating costs, and related party transactions.

The regulator’s complaint, claims that Behavioral Recognition Systems and Davis lied more than once in order to get investors to give them their money. Offering documents claimed that investor money would go toward “working capital,” “growth, “mezzanine funding,” and “general corporate purposes” for Behavioral Recognition Systems. Instead, contends the SEC, Davis used shell companies under his control to divert about $11M of investor money for his own use–$7.8M of that money was allegedly diverted during the period at issue. Bogus invoices from the shell companies for services purportedly rendered were then generated to conceal the fraud.
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