Articles Tagged with Woodbridge Ponzi Fraud

Ex-Merrill Lynch Broker Will Pay $5M Penalty and Serve Time In Prison

A federal judge has sentenced Thomas Buck, an ex-Merrill Lynch broker, to 40 months in prison. Buck pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 2017. As part of his plea, he admitted to lying to Merrill about telling clients about their account options, and, at certain times, making trades for them without getting their approval.

That year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had filed a complaint against Buck accusing him of making over $2.5M in excessive commissions and fees from more than four dozen clients. The SEC contends that Buck placed clients into accounts that charged them commissions instead of ones that were fee-based and not as costly. The regulator also accused him of making unauthorized trades. The Commission barred the former Merrill broker from the investment advisory and brokerage industries last year.

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 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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