Tag Archives: class action

Diones LaCerte Investment Fraud Investigation

We are currently investigating the actions of Colorado Springs broker Diones LaCerte.  Ms. LaCerte was most recently a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley.  If you information or would like to discuss a potential claim that you have concerning Ms. LaCerte, please call 303-300-5022 in Colorado or 1-866-817-0201 outside of Colorado to speak to a Colorado licensed attorney.

Ms. LaCerte has recently been alleged by FINRA regultators to have committed significant fraud. Between July 1,2012 and December 31,2014, LaCerte engaged in an unsuitable pattern of short-term trading of Unit Investment Trusts (“UITs”) in 107 of her customers’ accounts.  This is a significant type of fraud perpetrated on a large number of investors.   Diones LaCerte settled the charges without admitting or denying fault.

The actions of LaCerte constitute an unsuitable pattern of short term trading of UITs in 107 customer accounts. This is similar to churning an account.  Short term trades of a high commission and high cost investment puts the advisor’s financial gain ahead of that advisor’s investors.

UITs typically carry significant upfront charges, such as costs and commissions, and as with mutual funds, short-term trading of UITs is generally improper. During the Relevant Period, in connection with these 107 customer accounts, LaCerte repeatedly recommended that the customers purchase UITs and then sell these products well before their maturity dates.

The primary issue brought by FINRA concerns the selling of UITs less than two years after purchase.  The majority of the UlTs that LaCerte recommended had maturity dates of at least 24 months. Nevertheless, LaCerte repeatedly recommended that her customers sell their UIT positions less than one year after purchase. Indeed, the average holding period for the UITs purchased in these customers’ accounts was less than 300 days. In addition, on more than 100 occasions, LaCerte recommended that her customers use the proceeds from the short-term sale of a UIT to purchase another, similar UIT. LaCerte’s recommendations caused the customers to incur unnecessary sales charges, and were unsuitable in view of the frequency and cost of the transactions.

Diones LaCerte has a significant history of customer complaints prior to the current regulatory action.  The CRD of Ms. LaCerte, the record a financial advisor has with FINRA regulators, indicates that she has received many customer complaints concerning the sale of unsuitable investments, and these complaints have led to five investor lawsuits brought or threatened in the past three years.

Colo. Attorney for Sonya Camarco Victims

Sonya Camarco is an LPL Financial advisor based in Colorado Springs who stole approximately $2.8 million from her investors/clients.  Camarco then used the stolen funds for personal expenses such as buying several homes.

If you are a victim, please call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation on your rights.  Jeffrey Pederson is an attorney licensed in Colorado who has helped hundreds of victims of financial advisor fraud and theft from across the country.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Sonya D. Camarco with five counts of fraud charges and has frozen her assets after SEC investigators said she used third-party checks and other means to forward client funds toward personal expenses like mortgage and credit card payments.  Federal authorities filed charges against Comarco on or about August 27, 2017 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

broker in handcuffs

Camarco forged clients’ signatures on at least 129 first- and third-party checks, having them sent to a post office box and signing them over to an entity she controlled, an entity named “C Investments,” according to the SEC. Camarco bilked one widow victim for more than $1 million, investigators say.

These actions not only raise questions on the actions of Camarco, but also raises question as to the LPL supervisors charged with overseeing Camarco.  Reasonable supervision is designed to detect and stop these types of actions.  There are also money laundering issues on the part of those who helped Camarco commit her crimes.

Prior to working for LPL, Camarco had worked from both Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.

Jeffrey Pederson, from his offices in the Denver Tech Center, has handled cases in the past with similar facts and has experience in this type of advisor scheme where an advisor uses similar mechanisms to gain control of the investor’s funds.   Consequently, he knows the documents to seek in discovery from defendants or to subpoena from non-defendants, and additional avenues of recovery to allow victims to increase their level of repayment.

John Correnti Investment Losses

If you have suffered investment losses with John Correnti, most recently with AXA, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation concerning your rights.

Mr. Correnti was terminated by AXA in July 2016 as the result of allegations concerning market manipulation.  The manipulation concern certain low-priced investments that were traded over-the-counter.  This is a serious type of securities fraud.  Such investments are easy to manipulate by a broker because they generally have a low volume of trading.  If a broker can get several of clients in a short time period or have one client make a significantly large purchase he can artificially inflate the price.  The problem from market manipulation generally comes in that the broker trades in his own account ahead of the purchase, sells once the price is artificially inflated and then the investment crashes since no other investors are available to keep the price inflated, though it is unclear if Correnti directly profited from the alleged market manipulation.  Notwithstanding, a violation may exist even if the broker does not directly profit as either a fraud on the market or by the damage the broker causes the investor/customer.

FINRA sought to investigate Correnti for these allegations and allegations that he was intentionally selling investments to his customer/investors beyond the supervision of AXA compliance and managers.   Correnti, at the regulatory hearing, chose to stop his testimony and, as a result, stopped contesting the charges.  He was then expelled from the securities industry by FINRA.

 

Anthony Vincent Ferrone securities violations

If you have suffered securities losses with Anthony Vincent Ferrone, formerly of Morgan Stanley, Ameriprise and Stifel Nicolaus, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney.   We believe that investors may be entitled to recovery for securities losses based upon recent actions concerning allegations of securities violations.

NYSE pic 2In July 2017, Mr. Ferrone was barred by FINRA from the securities industry.  The reason was because of his refusal to give complete testimony in a regulatory investigation concerning allegations that he sold investors unsuitable investments.

Unsuitable investments are investments recommended by a broker that are too aggressive or otherwise consistent with the investment objectives of an investor.  It can also mean any investment where a broker puts his personal compensation ahead of those of his investors.  Investors sold unsuitable investments are entitled to damages from the broker and the broker’s employer.

This is a recent event in a history of events concerning alleged mismanagement of funds and other red flags as to Mr. Ferrone’s ability to act as a broker.  Ferrone has four other allegations of mismanagement by investors, which are largely based on suitability issues.

Although Ferrone appeared for the FINRA investigation review on June 21, 2017, he did not provide complete testimony to FINRA. Specifically, during the review, Ferrone stated that he did not intend to proceed further on that date or at any future date and departed prior to the completion of his testimony.

 

 

Attention Investors of Kyle P. Harrington

Investors of Kyle Patrick Harrington may have recourse for their losses.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Harrington has been alleged to have committed several forms of deceit in his dealings with investors and regulators in the last eight years.  This includes actions while employed at National Securities (NSC), Bannockburn Partners, Matrix Captial, First Allied, and Robert B. Ausdall.  He is currently a representative of Aurora Capital and also operates under the name of Harrington Capital Management.  Responsibility for the actions of Harrington fall not just on Harrington, but also on his employers.

The types of deceit alleged over the years include churning, creating of falsified documents, theft of investor funds, unsuitable investments, excessive trading, unauthorized purchases made in investor accounts, and other forms of misrepresentations and fraud.

Of all the allegations of deceit, the most recent is a civil suit filed by FINRA.   The FINRA suit involves a series of alleged deceptions by Kyle Harrington with the help of his assistant, Linda Milberger, to conceal Harrington’s alleged theft of customer funds and private securities transactions, securities transactions done outside of his firms’ fraud monitoring to put his investors in questionable investments.

Harrington is also alleged to have created false documents to submit to FINRA to conceal his misconduct not just from his employers, but also from regulators. For her part, Milberger falsified wire request forms which allowed Harrington’s conversion of customer funds, submitted those falsified wire request forms to her firm and another brokerage as if they were authentic records, and knowingly assisted Harrington in providing an altered bank statement to regulators.

In particular, in August 2012, Harrington convinced an investor to authorize a wire transfer to Harrington’s registered investment advisor firm for a purported investment. In fact, after the investor’s funds were wired to Harrington’s business checking account, Harrington took the investor’s funds without her knowledge or consent, and used it to pay his own business expenses.

When difficulties arose completing the $20,000 wire transfer from the investor’s account in August 2012, Harrington’s assistant, Milberger, altered the wire request form that the investor had signed without the investor’s knowledge or consent, on at least two occasions, in order to transfer all available cash out ofLD’s account to Harrington. Milberger submitted the altered wire request forms to her own firm and another broker dealer as iftheywere authentic, thereby causing those firms to maintain inaccurate books and records regarding the wire transfer.

In August 2012 and early 2013, Harrington also engaged in a series of private securities transactions with multiple individuals through which he sold over 300,000 shares of restricted stock he had purportedly received as compensation from a company named Islet Sciences, Inc. for approximately $276,000. Harrington failed to disclose these transactions, including his role as seller of the securities, to his employing firm or seek its prior approval of them.

Harrington not only failed to disclose his private securities transactions in Islet but he actively attempted to conceal them. Specifically, in July 2014, during a firm audit of his business, Harrington submitted falsified records to his firm mischaracterizing payments he had received for the sale of his Islet stock.

Additionally, Harrington has been the subject of nine actual or threatened investor lawsuits, multiple other regulatory investigations and employment terminations.  This information is contained in the CRD of Harrington.

Losses with Larry Charles Wolfe

Jeffrey Pederson PC assists investors in recovering losses such as those incurred as the result of the misdeeds of brokers, such as the alleged misdeeds of Larry Charles Wolfe.  Currently with Stoever, Glass & Co., Wolfe was previously with Aegis Capital Corp., and Herbert J. Sims & Co. Those suffering losses with this broker are likely entitled to recovery from either Wolfe or his employer.  Call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Invest photo 2FINRA has announced that it has entered into a settlement with Larry Charles Wolfe for making unauthorized transactions in his clients’ accounts.  The allegations are that between November 10, 2015 and November 16,2015, Wolfe inappropriately exercised discretion in the accounts of 39 investors without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers or written approval of the accounts as discretionary from his employing member firm, in violation of numerous state and federal securities laws.

A securities broker must obtain authorization from an investor prior to making a securities transaction in the investor’s account unless that broker has written authorization to make such a trade.

Additionally, MSRB Rule G-17 and FINRA rules require that each broker or dealer in municipal securities to deal fairly with customers and prohibits registered representatives from engaging “in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice.”

The trades are believed to involve municipal bonds and other securities.

In addition to this regulatory action, Wolfe has been sued by investors at least ten (10) times, primarily for allegations of unauthorized, excessive, or unsuitable trades.  Additionally, at least two (2) other investors have threatened suit.  Despite Mr. Wolfe being accused of wide-scale fraud he has not yet lost his license and is still working in the securities industry.

 

David Lerner Associates REIT Investigation

David Lerner Associates agreed to pay a $650,000 fine for the sale of unsuitable REITs to its investors and other violations.  Very little of the fine will compensate investors for their losses.  Instead, investors suffering losses contact a private attorney.  For a free, confidential consultation, investors can call Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201.

LandmarkThe non-traded REITs at issue in the regulatory action were REITs now known as Apple Hospitality REIT investments.  The offerings included are Apple 7, Apple 8 and Apple 9.

Suitability violations are for the recommending of investments that are too risky, complicated or volatile for an investor considering the investors objectives, risk tolerance and investment sophistication.  Non-traded REITs such as Apple are generally only suitable for only a limited slice of the investing public.  Investors, including those looking for either stability, income, low risk, preservation of capital or liquidity from this investment, were likely inappropriately sold this investment.

The agreement to settle the charges was in the form of a consent order entered into with New Jersey regulators.  Of the fine, $100,000 went to pay for costs and $50,000 was to pay for investor education programs.

More information on the fine and the regulatory action can be found at the following link.

Mark Holt Loss Recovery

Mark Holt is a former stock broker currently serving a prison sentence for stealing the funds of his investors and sending false account documents.  The scheme victimized investors in Minnesota and likely elsewhere.  Due to the incarceration, investors seeking recovery will likely need to pursue Holt’s former employers by means of FINRA arbitration for loss recovery.

From August 2005 to February 2007, Holt was a registered representative of Geneos Wealth Management, Inc., which is both a securities brokerage and investment adviser. From February 2007 to November 2013, Holt was a registered representative of Harbour Investments, Inc., which is also a dually registered entity. Holt, 47 years old, is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin.

guy in handcuffsDetails of the SEC action can be found in its release.

On August 14, 2014, Holt was sentenced to a prison term of 120 months followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to make restitution in the amount of $2,940,982.75.  The chances of these payments being made is not great considering Holt could be incarcerated for much of the next ten years.

The allegations are that from about September 2005 through Jan. 12, 2014, Holt “knowingly caused an email communication to be transmitted in interstate commerce via servers in Texas to a client in Minnesota that would give the client access to false account statements.”

The SEC and the criminal documents state that Holt “misappropriated [investor] funds by depositing client checks into a bank account he controlled and using these funds to pay for personal and business expenses. In furtherance of his scheme, Holt lulled his clients into believing that he had purchased various investments for them by sending fraudulent Morningstar client summaries and [...] a web-based portal, that displayed fraudulent account balances.”

“Holt made monthly payments to his clients that were intended to appear as interest or annuity payments,” in a classic Ponzi-type scheme.

Anne Marie Comcowich Loss Recovery

Anne Marie Comcowich, a Scranton, Pennsylvania area securities broker, has agreed to a sanction to resolve a FINRA investigation.  The underlying investigation concerned the unauthorized withdraw of funds, theft, from investor accounts.  Ms. Comcowich was previously with Prudential.

In 2017, while being investigated in connection with unauthorized withdrawals, Comcowich, through her lawyer, informed FINRA staff that she would not produce information and documents requested pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210. Comcowich thereby violated FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010.

By failing to participate in the regulatory action, Comcowhich received a bar from FINRA which Bull pictureprohibits her from working with any other securities brokerage.

Details of the FINRA action can be found in its AWC.  In the AWC, Comcowich neither admits nor denies the allegations.

Comcowich was suspected of processing 13 unauthorized withdrawals from customer accounts. In an email and follow up telephone call with FINRA staff on April 3, 2017, and by this agreement, Comcowich acknowledges that she received FINRA’s requests and will not produce the information and documents requested.  The actions of Comcowich are in violation FINRA Rule 2010 provides that “[a] member in the conduct of its business shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.” A violation of FINRA Rule 8210 is also a violation of FINRA Rule 2010.

Jeffrey Pederson is an attorney who has represented investors similarly victimized.  A limited number of attorneys have such experience in front of FINRA, where such cases would need to be brought.  Please call for a free and confidential consultation.

 

Investment Professionals, Inc. (IPI)

If you have suffered investment losses with Investment Professionals, Inc. (IPI) and believe that it may be due to mismanagement, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential attorney consultation.

Invest photo 2IPI has recently agreed to pay a fine to the Massachusetts Attorney General for violations of the suitability rule.  This rule requires a financial adviser to not recommend investments that are of a higher risk than an investor either wants or is financially able to take.  The allegations were that IPI was recommending risky investments to seniors who could not afford to take such risks. Though the action was brought by Massachusetts, the systemic nature is a good indication that such violations are occurring in other states as well.

IPI’s business model is based upon partnering with community banks so that the bank’s existing depository customers can be used to provide revenue to IPI and additional revenue to the bank. Though IPI is based in San Antonio, Texas, it engages in such partnerships around the country.

Networking agreements between IPI and their bank partners reveal a referral program where bank employees of its partner banks refer bank customers to IPI financial advisers for monetary incentives. In exchange for allowing IPI representatives convenient access to bank customers, IPI’ s bank partners receive “rent,” or commonly referred as a kickback, which is a percentage of the sales that IPI representatives earn from selling products at bank branches.

While IPI and their bank partners profit from their networking arrangements, the pervasive sales culture emphasizing and rewarding the volume of production at the expense of compliance with policies and procedures, suitability, and oversight means that certain senior citizen bank customers have been harmed .

As identified in the regulatory complaint, IPI has partnered with the following. banks and credit union in Massachusetts: Eastern Bank, Mutual Bank, East Boston Savings Bank, Edgartown National Bank, The Cooperative Bank, and Homefield Credit Union.  Between January 2014 and June 2016, the top ten IPI representatives working out of Massachusetts community banks received approximately 2,208 customer referals. Approximately forty-five percent ( 45%) of these bank referrals to IPI financial were referrals of semor citizens, those individuals aged 65 or older. Approximately fourteen percent (14 %) of those referred invested in market-linked certificates of deposit (“MLCDs”) and approximately thirty-nine percent (39%) invested in annuities. Eastern Bank, is IPI’s largest partner in Massachusetts. Eight of the top ten highest producing IPI representatives in the stat work at Eastern Bank branches.

IPI’s aggressive sales contests exist against a backdrop of lax supervision from offices located in Texas and Kentucky that management personal at IPI identified as “not adequate.” Although IPI’s own policies and procedures prohibit “activities that are designed to reward sales for a particular financial product or family of products” and prohibit activities that “would only serve as a luxury” to representatives, in 2016 IPI rewarded the top ten percent of the previous year’s highest-producing representatives with a trip to Turks and Caicos. In 2015, IPI held a sales contest approved by IPI’ s President and CEO whereby representatives who achieved sales of products up to $150,000.  This served as motivation to put seniors in inappropriate investments.