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The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has secured an asset freeze against three people and entities accused of operating a $125M offering fraud. The regulator contends that the international trading program, run by Mediatrix Capital, Inc. and its principals Michael Stewart, Michael Young, and Bryant Sewall, touted an algorithmic trading strategy that was supposedly “highly profitable,” had never experienced a month when it didn’t make money, and rendered over 1600% of returns.

The SEC contends that the reality was a very different story, with the trading strategy regularly losing money–over $18M from trading just in 2018. The Commission is accusing the defendants of the following:

    • Misrepresentations involving the trading strategy’s ability to make money

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin has imposed a $1.1M fine on target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>LPL Financial (LPLA) after finding that the brokerage firm did not properly register 651 of its advisors in the state. Galvin’s office contends that for six years, LPL let these brokers work in Massachusetts despite the lack of registration and that this violates the state’s securities laws.

In Massachusetts, a brokerage firm is required to register its agents before they are allowed to engage in securities-related business in the state. As of May 9, LPL had 4,219 agents who were registered in the state.

However, the lack of registration by 651 of its agents between March 2013 and April 4, 2019 prevented Massachusetts securities regulators from being able to check their qualifications and histories to ensure that investors who worked with them were in safe hands. 441 of these unregistered agents acted as financial advisors to at least one or more state residents during the period at issue. The other 210 agents supervised the agents who were advisors to these customers.

Michael L. Cohen, the ex-head of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group in Europe, has pleaded guilty to one criminal count of lying to authorities. The guilty plea comes a year after he was accused of defrauding a client, a biomedical research charity, of millions of dollars. Although prosecutors have not identified the charity, sources have told various media that it was Wellcome Trust, which backs research in health, science, and other fields.

Cohen, who was based in the UK at the time while working for the hedge fund management firm, is the one who brokered the sale of shares in an African mining company to the charity. The company belonged to one of his business associates.

Cohen made $4M from the sale of the shares. He allegedly failed to tell the charity that he himself owned shares in the mining company.

Gonzalo Ortiz, an investment adviser, is facing charges accusing him of defrauding one investor of more than $570K. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ortiz appropriated about $224,500 of his client’s funds and lost about $290K through trades that he made.

In its complaint, the SEC said from 2015 to 2017, Ortiz persuaded an acquaintance to give him control of nearly $570K, much of which were retirement funds. The investment adviser allegedly did this by promising the investor a 50% yearly return and while falsely touting a successful track record in investing.

At first, said the Commission, the investor gave Ortiz $200K to invest. Although the investment adviser was not authorized to use the money for his own use, he allegedly spent about $56K on cars and other goods while losing the remainder of the funds through trading. Ortiz then gave the investor a bogus account statement showing an over 50% return on the investment, compelling his client to give him another $200K to invest.

$20M Ponzi Scam Results in Guilty Plea for Kiddar Capital Founder

Todd Hitt, Kiddar Capital’s founder and a member of a prominent commercial real estate family in Virginia, has pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges accusing him of operating a $20M Ponzi fraud that involved several schemes. According to prosecutors, Hitt solicited about $30M from investors and then proceeded to use most of the money to fund his lavish lifestyle while using newer investors’ funds to pay older investors. He also allegedly made “false statements and material omissions” to investors when he didn’t tell them that their money was comingled with unrelated projects and not just the real estate and venture capital investments for which their funds were supposedly designated.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia contends that because of Hitt’s “fraudulent conduct,” investors lost about $20M. He is facing up to 20 years behind bars and is expected to pay a fine of millions of dollars. He previously settled related civil fraud charges filed against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Former Centaurus Financial Broker’s Certified Financial Planner Designation is Suspended

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has suspended Texas broker’s Larry J. Templin’s CFP designation. The interim suspension comes after Templin, who is accused of bank fraud, refused to provide the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) with information related to the allegations against him.

Templin was a Centaurus Financial broker until last year when he was fired by the Texas-based brokerage firm. Previously, he was registered with USAllianz Securities and First Global Capital, which are both headquartered in Texas. Templin worked in the securities industry for over 20 years.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel has found that ex-Royal Alliance Associates broker stole money from Cathy Carter, a 54-year-old widow suffering from a brain injury. Former broker Gary Basralian has already pleaded guilty to defrauding clients of at least $2M and using the funds on himself.

Now, FINRA has announced two awards holding Royal Alliance and its former broker liable for the fraud. The self-regulatory authority is ordering both of them to pay the widow $2.1M and $500K for legal fees each.

Basralian resigned from Royal Alliance in 2017. FINRA barred him from the securities industry last March.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel is ordering UBS Financial Services (UBS) and UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) to pay investor Jose F. Pastrana $693K, including at least $564,559 in damages, legal fees, and other costs in its Puerto Rico bond fraud case. UBS also must buy back from Pastrana some of the illiquid closed-end funds that he purchased from the firm at what their market price was at the end of July. AdvisorHub says that this amount will total $128K.

Pastrana had accused the broker-dealer of:

  • Negligence

The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced this week that Christopher Faulkner, a Texas businessman, will pay $23.8M to settle oil and gas charges involving an alleged over $80M securities scam that bilked hundreds of investors. Faulkner, who called himself the “Frack Master” and claimed to be an expert in hydraulic fracturing, is accused of setting up several companies and then selling interests in oil and gas prospects to investors in Texas and other US states.

The regulator contends that Faulkner:

  • “Systematically deceived” investors through offering materials that were “false and misleading.”

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.

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