Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

shutterstock_94632238-300x214The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating multiple claims that advisor Edward Matthes (Matthes) has engaged in a misappropriation scheme.  Matthes, formerly registered with Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. (Mutual of Omaha) and operating out of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, has been accused by more than 10 customers of engaging in securities fraud and misappropriating their funds.

In March 2019, Mutual of Omaha terminated Matthes employment stating that Matthes was discharged for creating fictitious account statements and diverting customer funds for his own personal use.  Also in March of 2019 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into Matthes for alleged misappropriation of funds.  Since then over ten customers have filed complaints alleging that Matthes misappropriated funds by diverting assets into his own bank account and created fictitious account statements.

Our law firm has significant experience bringing cases on behalf of defrauded victims when their advisors engage in misappropriation schemes.  Matthes activities in the sale of unapproved investment products – is a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws.  In the industry the term selling away refers to when a financial advisor solicits investments in companies, promissory notes, or other securities that are not pre-approved by the broker’s affiliated firm.  Sometimes those investments have some legitimacy but often times these types of investments can end up being Ponzi schemes or the advisor can be engaging in the conversion of funds.

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shutterstock_189302954-300x203According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Mark Augusta (Augusta), currently employed by Hilltop Securities, Inc. (Hilltop Securities) has been subject to at least an astonishing 19 customer complaints and one employment termination for cause.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Augusta’s customer complaints allege that Augusta sold his clients a variety of improper products including Puerto Rico municipal bonds, interest rate swap CDs (structured CDs), and other unsuitable debt securities.

In May 2015 Augusta’s then employer Wedbush Securities Inc. (Wedbush Securities) terminated Augusta after a client filed a complaint against him.

In February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Augusta violated the securities laws by, among other things, engaged in unauthorized and unsuitable investments made by the financial advisor in June 2014.  The claim alleged $398,832 in damages and is currently pending.

In August 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Augusta violated the securities laws by, among other things, making unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentations and omissions, negligence, and violations of California securities laws. The claim alleged $97,774 in damages and is currently pending.

In July 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Augusta violated the securities laws by, among other things, misrepresentation by omission with respect to the disclosure of representative’s regulatory and disciplinary history, unsuitable recommendations, and financial abuse of an elder.  The claim seeks $375,000 in damages and is currently pending.

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shutterstock_135103109-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor George McCaffrey (McCaffrey), formerly associated with NTB Financial Corporation (NTB Financial), in September 2018, was sanctioned and suspended from the securities industry by FINRA over accusations of potentially selling unapproved products.

In September 2018 FINRA alleged that McCaffrey consented to the sanctions and findings that he participated in 22 undisclosed private securities transactions in which nine investors purchased $1,775,000 in debt and equity securities. FINRA found that McCaffrey introduced the nine individuals to representatives of a greenhouse building and leasing company so they could invest in the company. Other activities McCaffrey is alleged to have performed include reviewing and editing documents relating to the investments, forwarding investment-related documents to the customers, and communicating with the customers about their investments.

The investors were found to have purchased $1,775,000 in promissory notes of the greenhouse building and leasing company and preferred stock in one of the company’s affiliates. FINRA also found that the company paid $124,250 in commissions to an entity controlled by McCaffrey’s wife.

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”.

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shutterstock_155271245-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Kari Bracy (Bracy), currently employed by NYLife Securities LLC (NYLife Securities) has been subject to one customer complaint during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the complaint against Bracy concerns allegations of unsuitable investments in Future Income Payments, Inc. (FIP).  Bracy has several disclosed outside business activities including Amani Properties, LLC and his d/ba/a name Mahoney Financial Organization, LLC and Wahby Financial Group LLC.

In July 2018 a customer complained that Bracy recommended an investment in Future Income Payments, Inc. a private securities transaction, was misrepresented as a conservative and safe investment with a 7.5% annual return for ten years.  The claim alleged $142,697.27 in damages and settled for $80,000.

The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP have been investigating investor recovery options due to the alleged pay advance fraud scheme orchestrated by Future Income Payments, LLC (Future Income Payments) also known as Pensions, Annuities, and Settlements, LLC, and its owner Scott Kohn (Kohn). Future Income Payment is an unregistered and illegal security offering.  Numerous state and local regulators and agencies also have concluded that FIP product violates a host of laws including securities, loan laws, usury laws, elder abuse, and consumer protection laws.

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shutterstock_112866430-300x199According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Alan Siegel (Siegel), currently employed by G.A. Repple & Company (GA Repple) has been subject to four customer complaints, one regulatory complaint, and one criminal matter.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in July 2018 Siegel was subject to a regulatory complaint by the Massachusetts Securities Division alleging that Siegel published false information on his website and failed to update this information for at least seven years.  Siegel drew a $10,000 fine and agreed to submit to heightened supervision.

In July 2018 a customer filed complaint alleging unsuitability, over concentration, and material omissions with respect to a bond purchase and a limited partnership investment in 2007 and a 2015 variable annuity transaction that was not suitable.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_94632238-300x214According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) former advisor Christopher Hibbard (Hibbard), formerly associated with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) in Louisville, Kentucky was terminated for cause by Merrill Lynch in January 2018 after the firm made allegations that Hibbard engaged in conduct including unauthorized transactions and theft.  Thereafter, in February 2018 Hibbard was barred by FINRA for failing to respond to the regulatory requests for information.  In April 2018 it was disclosed that an investigation of Hibbards activities had been opened by the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Kentucky.  The investigation involves the unauthorized use of client funds by Hibbard during his employment with Merrill Lynch.  In addition, eight customers have brought complaints against Hibbard alleging misappropriation of funds.

The allegations concerning conversion are often accompanied by claims of engaging in outside business activtiies and private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws.

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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.