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Articles Posted in Senior Investors

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it is suing Ami Forte, a former star Morgan Stanley (MS) broker. Forte is accused of making unsuitable trades in the account of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy M. Speer, who was mentally impaired and bedridden at the end of his life.

Forte earned over $9M commissions in less than a year from her work with Speer alone, and overall his accounts were responsible for nearly 90% of the commissions she made. At one point she was considered one of the highest earning female financial advisers in the US.

While the FINRA fraud complaint only refers to the older investor by his initials, news sources and other court documents identify the elder financial fraud victim as Mr. Speer. The Home Shopping Network co-founder, who was 80 when he died in 2012, had an estimated worth of about $775M in 2003. For a time, he was romantically involved with Forte.

Steven Pagartanis, an ex-New York broker with Lombard Securities, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud in a Ponzi scam that went on for more than 18 years and caused investors to lose more than $9M of the over $13M that they invested. Many of his victims were older investors who lost a significant amount of their life savings. Many of them had worked with Pagartanis for years.

According to the release by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, from 1/2000 to 3/2018, Pagartanis persuaded older individuals to get involved in investments involving real estate, including those that had affiliations with an international hotel conglomerate and publicly traded entities. Investors were told that their principal was secure and they would make a fixed return of 4.5 to 8% yearly.

Pagartanis’ victims were instructed to write checks to an entity of which he was secretly in control. The former broker used different bank accounts to launder the stolen money that he then spent on his own expenses as well as to pay other investors their “interest or dividend payments” that they were owed. He set up bogus account statements so as to encourage further investing and to hide his fraud.

Center Street Securities broker Sean Kelly is accused of defrauding 12 investors, including older retirees and individuals with disabilities of at least $1M through his companies Lion’s Share and Associates, Inc., Lion’s Share Financial of East Cobb, and Lionsshare Tax Services, LLC. The Georgia-based broker is now facing criminal investor fraud charges, as well as parallel civil charges brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Kelly is a registered broker with Center Street Securities Inc. The SEC contends that Kelly falsely represented himself as both an investment adviser and a broker-dealer. According to his BrokerCheck record, he previously worked with several other firms, including Capital Financial Services and Securities America, and he has worked in the industry for at least 17 years.

The SEC contends that Kelly told investors he would put their money in different kinds of investment products, including real estate funds, annuities, private placements, and investment funds. Instead, he allegedly used investors’ money on his own expenses, including to pay for luxury holidays, Super Bowl tickets, mortgage payments, and to make cash withdrawals. Kelly is accused of telling investors to issue checks to Lion’s Share or a third party instead of to Center Street Securities.


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.”


Steele Financial is Accused of Investor Fraud

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against investment advisory firm Steele Financial Inc. and its owner Tamara Steele. According to the regulator, they allegedly sold $13M of risky securities to over 120 advisory clients. A lot of these clients are teachers, ex-teachers, or other public education employees. The SEC contends that Steele and her investment advisory firm did not tell them that Steele Financial would be making up to 18% in commissions in sales.

According to the Commission’s investment advisory fraud complaint, from 12/2012 to 10/2016, Stele Financial and Steele sold over $15M of Behavioral Recognition Systems Inc. securities. BRS is a company that the SEC has charged with fraud in the past. Meantime, Stele and her firm made over $2.5M of commissions.


Over 1000 Investors May Be Victims of Alleged Future Income Payments Fraud

Dozens of stockbrokers, financial planners, financial advisers, and insurance agents are now the defendants of investor fraud lawsuits over an alleged $100M scam that may have bilked over 1000 investors. Many of these investors were retirees, which means that elder investor fraud may have been involved.

InvestmentNews reports that according to the plaintiffs, the advisers breached their fiduciary obligation and were negligent when they sold them structured cash flows offered by Future Income Payments, LLC. At least 370 investment intermediaries in the US are believed to have sold these investments to investors, with the representatives receiving 6-10% in commissions upfront.

Daniel Glick, a Chicago-Based investment adviser who bilked clients, including older investors, of $5.2M, has been sentenced to 151 months in prison. He also has to pay $5.2M in restitution. Glick’s Ponzi-like fraud took place between 2011 and 2016.

Glick, who is the owner of Glick Accounting Services Inc., Financial Management Strategies Inc., and Glick & Associates Ltd., pleaded guilty earlier this year to wire fraud. He told clients that not only would he invest their funds but also that he would pay their bills for them. He sent them account statements that were “false and misleading.”

Glick’s own family, including his wife’s parents, were among his victims. He defrauded them of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another family paid him $700K in fees while he misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars. Clients’ funds were also used to pay two business associates.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed senior investor fraud-related charges against Houston pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church and financial planner Gregory Alan Smith. The regulator is accusing them of defrauding older investors of over $1M through the sale of pre-Revolutionary Chinese bond interests.

Smith runs the Smith Financial Group. The SEC permanently barred him from associating with brokerage-firms in 2010 after he was accused of misappropriating investor money. Caldwell is the senior pastor at reportedly one of the biggest Protestant churches in the US.

According to the regulator, in 2013 and 2014, the two men solicited older investors in an attempt to sell them bonds that they claimed were valued at billions of dollars when, in truth, the bonds were “collectible memorabilia” that lacked any “meaningful investment value.”

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Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has filed an administrative complaint accusing private equity fund ARO Equity LLC, Timothy James Alcott, and Thomas David Renison of running a Ponzi scam that bilked investors of over $5.8M. Most of their victims were senior investors in their 70’s and 80’s who were allegedly promised 8-12% yearly returns over three-to-five years for their purchase of mostly promissory notes.

According to the Massachusetts Regulator’s complaint, Renison, Alcott, and ARO Equity invested just half of investors’ funds, with most investments made sustaining substantial losses. They allegedly ran their scam out of a trailer park in the city of Peabody despite listing their address at the One International Place Tower in Boston. Meantime, the two men have purportedly paid themselves more than $1M since their alleged Ponzi scam began.

Renison, who allegedly made $710K, was barred from the securities industry by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014 for promissory note fraud involving a client. He was ordered by a jury to pay a $1.4M judgment in that matter. A criminal charge for conspiring to commit wire fraud was brought against him in a parallel case that was dismissed following his cooperation and testimony against a co-conspirator.

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