Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

shutterstock_143094109-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are reviewing court documents and complaints related to The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) charge  a Connecticut investment advisory firm Temenos Advisory, Inc. (Temenos) and its principal, George L. Taylor (Taylor) put $19 million of investor money, including elderly investors’ retirement savings and pension plans, in risky investments and all the while secretly pocketing large commissions.

The SEC alleged that from 2014 through 2017, Temenos and Taylor defrauded their advisory clients and by steering the clients into unsuitable investments and by hiding commissions and other financial incentives that Temenos and Taylor were pocketing on top of the advisory fees clients paid. In addition, the SEC found that Temenos and Taylor repeatedly downplayed and concealed risks, and overstated potential gains with the illiquid private placements

The SEC accused Temenos and Taylor of violating their fiduciary duty that every investment adviser owes to its clients that requires firms to put client interests first, to deal with clients with the utmost honesty, to disclose all conflicts or potential conflicts of interest, and to use reasonable care in providing investment advice.

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shutterstock_190371500-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) former Feltl & Company (Feltl) broker Todd Meier (Meier) has been discharged for failure to follow firm policies and procedures with regards to interactions with a client.  This discharge occurred in April 2018.  The termination occurred shortly after Meier was subject to a customer complaint alleging churning or excessive trading that occurred from 2009 through 2012 causing $363,443 in damages.  The claim was settled for $125,000.

In addition, Meier has been subject to numerous tax liens and declared bankruptcy in 2015.  Such disclosures on a broker’s record can reveal a financial incentive for the broker to recommend high commission products or services.  FINRA discloses information concerning a broker’s financial condition because a broker’s inability to handle their own personal finances has also been found to be material information in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

shutterstock_66175306-300x225Current D.H. Hill Securities, LLLP (D.H. Hill) broker Charles Stevens (Stevens) has been subject to four customer complaints and five tax liens.  According to a BrokerCheck report many of the complaints concern alternative investments and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

In addition, Stevens is subject to massive tax liens totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In March 2017 Stevens disclosed a tax lien of over $202,000.  The fact that a broker cannot manage his own personal finances is material information for a client to consider.  In addition, the types of products clients have alleged were unsuitable are high commission products that may be recommended to generate high profits for the advisor at the expense of the client.

In March 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging unsuitable recommendations, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, failure to supervise and breach of contract during period of 2012 to 2017.  The client alleged $150,000 in damages and the claim is currently pending.

shutterstock_188141822-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CUNA Brokerage) broker Matthew Paolucci (Paolucci). According to BrokerCheck records, Paolucci has been subject to three customer complaints, one of which is still pending. The majority of these complaints concern recommendations of unsuitable investments.

Most recently, in September 2017, a customer alleged that from 2008 to 2015, Paolucci recommended unsuitable investments from a wide range of securities. The customer has requested $200,000 in damages. This dispute is currently still pending.

In July 2016, a customer alleged that in 2012, Paolucci recommended unsuitable recommendations in oil and gas securities. The customer requested $18,829.27 in damages.

shutterstock_136504499Gana Weinstein LLP is investigating the LJM Preservation and Growth Fund (Ticker Symbols LJMAZ, LJMCX, LIMIX). The LJM Funds relied extensively on a strategy that is designed to profit from calm markets. The LJM Preservation and Growth Funds collapsed and lost more than 80% of its value as a result of last week’s market volatility. The combonation of LJMAZ, LJMCX and LIMIX at one point collectively held over $800 million in assets CNC reached out to Chicago-based LJM Partners, Inc. – the funds managers, and no comment was made.

According to its annual report to shareholders, LJM explained that it options “to deliver solid returns while maintaining risk parameters.” LJM also suggested that it used techniques to mitigate losses in extreme market conditions. The fund was designed to take advantage of the spread between realized and implied volatility. According to CNBC, “LJM Preservation and Growth Fund had been run by Anthony Caine, a veteran of the 1990s technology boom who later founded LJM, and Anish Parvataneni, a former trader for well-known investor Ken Griffin’s Citadel.”

According to reports, LJM was infused with almost $400 million in new capital in 2017 alone.

shutterstock_173509961-300x200According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), former Capitol Securities Management (Capitol Securities) employee Teryl Trenchard (Trenchard) in under investigation for fraud.  In March 2017 FINRA initiated its investigation into Trenchard for fraud.  On the same day Capitol Securities terminated Trenchard for the same reason.  Thereafter, in July 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and unsuitable investments causing $700,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

Thereafter, in September 2017 another customer alleged that from 2005 to March 15, 2017 Trenchard engaged in misappropriation, forgery, fraud, and unauthorized trading in unsuitable transactions.  The customer alleged $1,800,00 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

At this time it is unclear the extent and scope of Trenchard’s securities violations and the exact details of the fraud under investigation.  Trenchard’s CRD lists a business called Market Technician’s Association and no other businesses.

shutterstock_94332400-300x225According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Alonza Barnett (Barnett), in March 2017, was barred from the industry by FINRA after FINRA requested documents and information and he failed to request termination of his suspension within three months of the date of the Notice of Suspension drawing an automatic bar from association with any FINRA member in all capacities.  Previously, Barnett was registered with Ameritas Investment Corp. (Ameritas).

In February 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that for a 15 year period Barnett engaged in conversion of funds, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud, and violation of the North Carolina Investment Advisors Act.  The claim appears to involve private securities.  The claim alleged $1,750,000 in damages and is currently pending.

At this time it is unclear the extent and scope of Barnett private securities activities.  Barnett CRD lists that he is engaged in fixed insurance products and operates a d/b/a called Dacthler Wealth Management as an outside business activity.  The providing of loans or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

shutterstock_185913422-300x200In early September, we reported that the investment lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP were investigating allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finding that Sonya Camarco (Camarco) misappropriated over $2.8 million in investor funds from her clients and customers.

In a separate but parallel action, Colorado state authorities have arrested Camarco on charges that she stole $850,000 from clients. According to news sources, a Colorado grand jury indicted Camarco on six counts of securities fraud and seven counts of theft on September 21. Authorities say Camarco operated her scheme between January 2013 and May 2017. An SEC investigator allegedly traced nearly 130 checks from Camarco’s clients’ accounts to a post office box she controlled. Camarco is accused of using the money to pay her own credit card bills and taxes, and to buy real estate.

LPL terminated Camarco in August 2017 “for depositing third party checks from client accounts into a bank account she controlled and accessing client funds for personal use.”

shutterstock_187532306-300x200There is a need for strong protection of the elderly investing population. About one out of every five Americans 65 years and older has been a victim of financial abuse.  The elderly are estimated to lose up to $2.9 billion per year from scams.   In fact, these figures are likely lower than the actual incidence of fraud since only reported accounts of frauds are considered and seniors are “less likely” to report being scammed.

Elders are abused by a variety of persons including family members, caregivers, scam artists, financial advisers, fiduciaries (such as agents under power of attorney and guardians), and others.  Usually the person is already in a position of trust or is able to acquire a high level of trust due to the diminished capacity of the victim.

Now a new survey of state securities regulators by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), released on National Senior Citizens Day, shows that more need to be done in order to protect seniors from financial fraud.  The NASAA’s polled its members and represents the views of securities regulators who are local state regulators of investment advisors.

shutterstock_24531604-200x300Our firm is investigating claims made by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) against broker Richard Cody (Cody) that involves potentially millions in either stolen client funds or misrepresentations concerning the state of their accounts.  Cody is a formerly associated broker with brokerage firms Westminster Financial Securities, Inc. (Westminster), Concorde Investment Services, LLC (Concorde Investment), and IFS Securities (IFS).  Cody conducted his business through his advisory firm Boston Investment Partners.  According to brokercheck, Cody has been subject to three regulatory events, two investigations, and 15 customer disputes among other disclosures.

The SEC’s complaint lays out an astonishing scheme to defraud investors.  The SEC alleged that Cody would tell retired clients that their accounts were flourishing and making money when in fact they were dwindling to near-zero balances.  The SEC tells the tale of three clients who were lied to by Cody about their rapidly depleting retirement accounts through monthly deductions that were unsustainable.

Further, to make the scheme work Cody fabricated account statements, told clients they were withdrawing investment gains rather than depleting their principal, and sent a doctored document to indicate that a financial firm was holding an annuity on behalf of one client.  Cody’s conduct occurred over a 12 year period in which Cody was registered as a broker with five different independent firms.