The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has permanently barred a former Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Inc. and AXA Advisors broker from operating. Kenneth George Neely has admitted to running a ponzi scheme involving clients of both broker-dealers, as well as friends, family members, and fellow church members.
According to federal regulators, Neely acted fraudulently when he induced at least 25 clients to take part in the “St. Louis Investment Club” and invest in “St Charles REIT. Both the investment club and the real estate investment trust are bogus.
To cover up the Ponzi scheme, Neely had investors issue payments to his wife in $2,000 and $3,000 increments so that banks wouldn’t get suspicious when funds were turned into cash. He also created bogus invoices that looked like official ownership certificates for REIT purchases. These certificates listed names of a “President” and a “Secretary” who were both fictitious. Neely promised investors that their investments would be taken care of.
For example, he promised one friend a high return rate on a bogus St. Charles REIT investment. The friend had invested $154,000. Neely would end up returning $10,000 to this person and using the rest of the funds to pay for some of his own personal expenses and debt.
He also persuaded a fellow church member to invest $35,000. He promised a 5% return rate. Small interest payments later dried up and Neely used the balance for his personal spending.
Neely improperly utilized over $600,000 of his investors’ assets. He converted over half the amount to his own use and returned about $300,000 to some investors.
It wasn’t until FINRA spoke with the St. Louis broker about his bogus real estate investment trust that he stopped collecting funds. AXA terminated his employment after he admitted what he’d done to FINRA.
FINRA enforcement chief Susan Merrill says that it is disturbing that in addition to taking advantage of clients at the brokerage firms where he’d worked, Neely also exploited relatives, friends, and acquaintances and took their “hard-earned savings.”
FINRA Permanently Bars Broker Operating Ponzi Scheme Involving Customers of Broker-Dealers, FINRA, July 27, 2009
Former AXA broker barred by FINRA for Ponzi scheme, Reuters, July 27, 2009
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