The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP continue to investigate the Woodbridge Group of Companies and the Woodbridge Mortgage Funds (Woodbridge). The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has alleged that the Woodbridge operated a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme ensnaring about 8,400 investors. Woodbridge solicited hundreds of disreputable insurance agents and investment brokers to sell its false notes that the firm claimed to be backed by mortgages. In plain sight to regulators, Woodbridge engaged in a nationwide investment fraud by offering the sale of unregistered securities.
According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) John Ernst (Ernst) appears to be an agent for Woodbridge fraudulent note sales. Ernst was formerly associated with Foresters Equity Services, Inc. (Foresters Equity) out of the firm’s San Diego, California office location. In November 2017 the State of Wisconsin opened an investigation into Ernst in connection with potential sales of Woodbridge promissory notes. In addition, Foresters Equity terminated Ernst in February 2018 stating that he violated the firm’s policies and procedures by engaging in an undisclosed private securities transaction away from the broker dealer without approval.
Federal securities laws and the FINRA rules require firms to monitor and supervise its employees, like Ernst, in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion. In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public. Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including recommending fraudulent investments.
The signs that the Woodbridge Funds was a giant fraud debacle ware all apparent. Woodbridge and its agents have been sanctioned by multiple state regulators for offering unregistered securities. Going back to May 2015, the Massachusetts Securities Division imposed a bar on the Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds and ordered the companies to permanently cease and desist from selling unregistered or non-exempt securities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Thereafter, on July 17, 2015, the Texas State Securities Board issued an emergency cease and desist order against Woodbridge Fund 3, the firm’s owner Robert Shapiro (Shapiro), and other parties and ordered them to stop engaging in fraud in connection with the sale of securities in the state of Texas. On October 4, 2016 the state of Arizona filed a complaint against Woodbridge entities for selling unregistered securities through unregistered brokers. In December 2016, Woodbridge entities and individuals were sanctioned by the state of Arizona.
Ernst entered the securities industry in 1989. From January 2011 until March 2018 Ernst was associated with Foresters Equity.
While the SEC has spent years investigating Woodbridge, the firm continued to raise millions of dollars from investors. Some of the Woodbridge entities or Woodbridge Funds include the following:
- WMF Management, LLC
- Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC
- Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund 1, LLC
- Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund 2, LLC
- Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund 3, LLC
- Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund PA, LLC
- Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC (DBA Woodbridge Wealth)
Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. Investors who have suffered losses may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of investment fraud and brokerage firms failure to supervise their representatives. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.