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Did You Lose Money on Investments With JP Turner and Centaurus Through Rick Mantei, Cindy Chiellini, Atul Makharia or Others?

Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas, LLP (“SSEK Law Firm”) is currently representing a number of clients against J.P. Turner & Co., LLC (“JP Turner”) and Centaurus Financial, Inc. (“Centaurus”) based on the conduct of a number of their financial advisors who engaged in a one-size-fits-all investment program involving structured products and other illiquid alternative investments. JP Turner and Centaurs’ agent, Rick Mantei (“Mantei”), and other registered representatives were part of a group known as the “Mantei Group” which operated through four Branch offices in South Carolina and Tennessee. According to lawsuits filed through FINRA, Mantei and over a dozen different registered representatives that work through the Mantei Group operated out of Centaurus branch offices in Lexington, South Carolina; Greenwood, South Carolina; Aiken, South Carolina, and Johnson City, Tennessee.

According to Mantei’s CRD, the official record for brokers/advisors, he has eighteen (18) disclosures, 16 of those are customer complaints related to the sale of structured products and alternative investments. In addition to customer complaints, there are currently at least two active regulatory complaints brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), the regulatory body overseeing brokerage firms and their registered representatives, concerning the Mantei Group. The complaints allege that Mantei and his group engaged in unlawful trading related to structured products. In another matter, a complaint was brought by the State of Colorado against Centaurus for its failure to supervise Mantei and one or more registered representatives in his group.

SSEK Law Firm has uncovered that it appears that Mantei, although he often has no relationship with customers of the Mantei Group, receives the commissions on the sale of all investments sold by his registered representatives and he pays his registered representatives a salary. Mantei took out an advertisement in a local publication entitled: “Centaurus Financial Seeks New and/or Experienced Registered Financial Advisors”. It states: "Learn firsthand with one of the most successful stockbrokers ever, Rick Mantei. With over $125,000,000 in commissions during his career, Rick is willing to teach you how to do the same as a registered financial advisor with Centaurus Financial, LLC.” It is further alleged in the complaints SSEK Law Firm has reviewed that Mantei directed brokers under his control to sell the investments discussed above.

Additionally, as noted in the complaint filed by the State of Colorado against Centaurus Financial, another broker in Mantei’s group, Cindy Lucille Porto Chiellini (“Chiellini”), was listed on all customer account statements as the broker of record even though she had no direct or indirect relationship or contact with many of the customers. Other brokers listed on statements include Atul Makharia (“Makharia”), Greg Young (“Young”), Andrew Hall (“Hall”), Hunter McCarthy (“McCarthy”) and Matt Hawkins (“Hawkins”). According to their CRD reports, they were registered representatives of J.P. Turner from 2010 to 2015 and some followed to Respondent Centaurus from May 2015 to present, the same as Mantei. Additionally, their prior employers included such problem firms as GunnAllen Financial, Inc., and First Allied Securities, Inc. These FINRA firms no longer exist because of their significant regulatory problems and customer complaints.

Chiellini has thirty (30) disclosures on her CRD including twenty-nine customer disputes (29) and one (1) regulatory event. Atul Makharia has five (5) customer disputes listed on his CRD report. Matt Hawkins has seven (7) customer disputes listed on his CRD report. Greg Young has six (6) disclosures on his CRD, including five (5) customer disputes and one instance of him being “permitted to resign” in lieu of being fired. Most of the complaints involve allegations of unsuitable recommendations of alternative investments, specifically sales of structured products.

Mantei and the other representatives of JP Turner and Centaurus advertised and sold illiquid debt instruments to unsophisticated investors (primarily over the age of 50), with false promises of high-interest rates and guaranteed return of principal. These products included structured certificates of deposit (“Structured CDs”), principal-protected notes (“PPNs”), and corporate bonds including bonds issued by foreign companies (“Alternative Investments”). According to allegations, all these different complex investments shared the same or similar characteristics that were willfully misrepresented and/or concealed. These include claims that the promised high initial interest rate was illusory, and was recalculated after an introductory period based on complex and obscure metrics. For most, the result was a reduction to zero or near zero of the interest rates which had long term maturities (often 30+ years) and in many cases were longer than the investors’ life expectancies. Moreover, the reduced interest rate negatively impacted the value of the investment, with some supposedly guaranteed investments losing almost half their value.

Other alleged misrepresentations and omissions include that Structured CDs would perform like traditional bank certificates of deposit; that the market value would not decrease during the life of the investments; and that the Investment Products were liquid. In reality, Structured CDs and other structured and alternative products are almost always illiquid and have many hidden risks. As a result, investors who purchased the securities could not access their funds without substantial losses, assuming a secondary market even existed for such investments. As further alleged, JP Turner and Centaurus advanced their interests in the sale of these structured products without regard, and contrary to, the interests of the investors, as these products paid high fees and commissions.

SSEK Law Firm is fighting for investors throughout the US to recoup their losses as a result of stockbroker fraud and brokerage firm misconduct. We currently are representing a number of investors against JP Turner and Centaurus as a result of the conduct described above. If you were a victim of the Mantei Group or had similar experiences with JP Turner and Centaurus, Contact us today.

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