Tag Archives: fraud

DC Solar Ponzi – Loss Recovery

DC Solar is accused of operating a large Ponzi-type scheme concerning  a number of tax equity investment funds from 2015-2018.  The company, whose products include solar generators as well as light towers that can be used at sports events, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2019 in Reno, Nevada.  This Ponzi scheme, as with most Ponzi schemes, is about a failure of investigation as much as the underlying fraud.

In a February 8, 2019 affidavit related to those bankruptcy proceedings, an FBI agent said the manner in which the Benecia, California-based company appeared to have operated reflected “evidence of a Ponzi-type investment fraud scheme.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused DC Solar’s owners by name of engaging in a Ponzi scheme, according to a separate court filing.

As late as December 20, 2018, DC Solar had been seen in the business media as an “Energy Powerhouse.”  The company was well known and sponsored a NASCAR team.  Those fortunes reversed quickly.

Sufficient investigation by advisors would have revealed insufficient lease revenue and that the funds coming in to compensate the lack of lease revenue was simply investor money.  As such, payments of profits was simply earlier investors receiving the investment funds of newer investors.  Detecting such arrangements is the charge of brokers, advisors and their firms as part of their due diligence obligations.

Civil action has been commenced against the property of DC Solar, which is considered the defendant in the case. Because it is a civil action, no criminal charges need be placed against the property’s owner, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, 87 defendant items are traceable to an investment fraud and money laundering scheme run by companies described in other court documents as those associated with DC Solar.

The defendant properties listed are $62,546110.43 in multiple domestic and foreign bank accounts; $1,944,091.07 in cash seized at the Carpoffs’ Martinez home and Benicia offices; an estimated $500,000 worth of jewelry and other personal items; and a $782,949 money transfer for that luxury box at the Raiders NFL football team’s future stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.

Most of the bank accounts had been opened with China Bank and Trust, which is based in Taiwan with multiple international subsidiaries, according to its website. Other accounts were opened with E-trade, J.P. Morgan, BBVA Compass and Bank of America, the attorneys wrote.

Once of the largest victims is Berkshire Hathaway.  Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Wednesday said a $377 million charge it incurred recently was tied to a solar generation company that U.S. authorities have linked to fraud.

 

Christopher Duke Bennett Fraud Victims

If you have suffered losses with Christopher Duke Bennett of J.J.B. Hilliard, please call 1-866-817-0201.   Victims may receive a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.  Bennett is accused of participating in systemic fraud of his investors.

Bennett engaged in unauthorized trading, or churning.  This is where a broker makes trades in an account to effectuate commissions for himself without regard for the investor.  Between January 2014 and December 2015, Bennett violated federal and state securities laws by exercising discretionary trading authority in the accounts of several customers without written authorization, in violation of NASD Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.  This was the grounds for a regulatory action filed against Bennett by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Between January 2014 and December 2015, Bennett made unauthorized trades in the accounts of four customers, one of whom was a senior investor, by placing approximately 75 total trades in those accounts. A broker is required to speak to an investor contemporaneously to a trade, or have written authorization that the broker has authority to make a trade at the broker’s discretion.  Bennett did not obtain express authorization from those customers for those trades prior to placing them, did not have written authorization from the customers to exercise discretionary authority in those accounts, and neither sought nor obtained from Hilliard Lyons prior written acceptance of the accounts as discretionary.

To date, at least 10 of Bennett’s former clients have filed suit, via FINRA arbitration, seeking redress.

Adam Michael Lopez Loss Recovery

If you were an investor of Adam Michael Lopez, formerly of Country Capital Management, please call 1-866-817-0201 to discuss your options for loss recovery.

Invest photo 2Mr. Lopez has recently received a bar from the securities industry.  He refused to respond to allegations made against him by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  These allegations included claims that he stole funds  that clients had given to him for investment, namely funds for insurance policies.

FINRA is a self-regulatory organization that polices securities brokerages under the oversight of the SEC.  This entity is charged with policing securities brokers in their interactions with investors both with their firm and away from their investment firm.

The State of Illinois is also investigating since Mr. Lopez operated out of the Springfield area.  The allegations consist of theft of funds given to Lopez for the placement in certain insurance policies and securities.

Country Capital Management had a duty to oversee the activities of Lopez.  A securities broker-dealer has obligations to oversee outside business activities of its representatives.  Consequently, civil liability may exist on the part of Country Capital to compensate the clients of Lopez.

If you have suffered such losses, Jeffrey Pederson may be able to assist you.  Jeffrey Pederson handles FINRA arbitration cases across the country and is licensed with the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Douglas Simanski Fraud

Investors of Douglas Simanski should call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney.

FBIFederal regulators allege that Douglas Simanski raised more than $3.9 million from approximately 27 of his brokerage customers and investment advisory clients by telling them that he would invest their money in either a “tax-free” fixed rate investment, a rental car company, or one of two coal mining companies in which Simanski claimed to have an ownership interest.

The investors were largely in the Altoona, PA area.  Most of the investors were elderly.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil action in the United States District Court for Western Pennsylvania on November 2, 2018.  The complaint describes the fraudulent scheme of Simanski and seeks civil penalties and disgorgement.

As stated in the SEC  complaint, “Simanski convinced some of his most trusting and vulnerable clients, many of them retired or elderly, to invest their money while knowing the investments were not legitimate, that he would make virtually no securities investments on their behalf, and would instead use their money for personal expenses or to repay other investors.”

Simanski placed investor funds in brokerage and bank accounts that Simanski opened in his wife’s name.  He would then use the life savings of his investors for his own personal needs.

The record of Simanski shows that his employers ultimately discovered the wrongdoing after investors brought the matter to the attention of regulators.

Attention Investors of John Maccoll

John C. Maccoll, who was a registered representative of UBS Financial Services and an investment advisor, is charged both criminally and civilly with defrauding at least 15 of his brokerage clients, most of them elderly and retired, in a scheme that lasted for at least a decade.  If you were an investor with Maccoll please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.  Representation will be on a contingency fee basis.

Maccoll’s career goes back 40 years.  Prior to being with UBS he spent years working as a brokerguy in handcuffs for Morgan Stanley.  We believe that he used his scheme not only at UBS but also at Morgan Stanley.

According to the SEC, he used high-pressure sales tactics to convince his brokerage customers to invest in what he described as a “highly sought after” private fund investment. The victims were convinced to sell their retirement accounts or borrow against them and make out checks to Maccoll.

The actions of Macoll are commonly referred to as “selling away.”  This is common.  A broker will either try to sell an investment of a confidant who will pay him a premium, or sometimes make up the investment completely.  Brokerage firms are required to have mechanisms in place to detect and stop such trading practices.

One customer’ defrauded invested her life savings and money from her deceased husband’s life insurance payout, which she intended to use to pay for college expenses for her three children, adding that Maccoll knew that the funds invested in his customers’ accounts were for retirement or college expenses.

Attention Investors of Mark Solomon

If you were one of the investors of Mark Solomon please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.   We believe that Mr. Solomon, whose office is in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, inappropriately sold real estate investments and that his employer, M Holdings, inappropriately supervised Solomon and allowed the sales to occur.

Invest photo 2From December 16, 2014 through December 29, 2014, on behalf of a commercial real estate limited partnership, Solomon solicited and sold limited partnership interests (the “offering”) to seven investors for a total of $1,400,000.  However, before soliciting and selling interests in the offering on behalf of the commercial real estate limited partnership, Solomon did not provide to M Holdings the notice required. Solomon first provided written notice of his sales activity to M Holdings on August 31, 2015 after responding to inquiries made by a regulator during an examination of M Holdings.

The financial industry regulator, FINRA, brought an action against Solomon for the sales of the investments.  Solomon entered into a settlement where he agreed to a one year suspension from the securities industry.

M Holdings ultimately is responsible for the sale of the investments.  Brokerage firms are responsible for the supervision of the private securities sales of their brokers even when the sales are away from the firm.  FINRA brought action for the inadequate supervision of Solomon by M Holdings.    M Holdings was censured and agreed to pay a $135,000 fine.

 

Christopher Wendel Investors

If you are an investor suffering losses with Christopher Wendel, please 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation.  Mr. Wendel has been implicated in the improper sale of Woodbridge  notes and other securities violations.  Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors nationwide in cases concerning Woodbridge and other similar securities actions.

Wendel solicited investors to purchase promissory notes in Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds, a purported real-estate investment fund.  Wendel did not provide notice to SA Stone Wealth Management, his employer, prior to participating in these private securities transactions, nor did he obtain approval from SA Stone.  Despite the lack of notice, SA Stone had a duty to investigate and approve securities sales to prevent its representatives from “selling away.”

Invest photo 2Investment firms are liable for not following FINRA’s strict guidelines concerning the monitoring of representatives to ensure the representatives do not sell unapproved investments, such as Woodbridge.  Common knowledge within the securities industry is the fact that representatives often seeks to sell investments that are unapproved for either the higher commissions or illegal kickbacks that the investments provide.  The problem is that the increased compensation is because the investments either are financially unsound or, in some cases, based upon fraud.

Additionally, there were glaring issues  in these Woodbridge investments for an extended period of time.    These issues should have been discovered during reasonable due diligence by the brokers and agents selling the Woodbridge investments.  These investments should have been recognized as not being suitable for any investor.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission SEC had been investigating Woodbridge since 2016.  Woodbridge, the Sherman Oaks, California-based Woodbridge, which calls itself a leading developer of high-end real estate, had been under the microscope of state regulators even longer.   The focus of these regulators was the possible fraudulent sale of securities.

In 2018, FINRA found that Wendel violated FINRA Rules by providing a false written response and testimony concerning one of the private securities transactions.

This is not the first time Mr. Wendel has been accused of handling the funds of others improperly.  The record of Mr. Wendel shows the six private lawsuits have been initiated concerning his actions.  He has also previously been investigated by SA Stone for the sale of unapproved securities, a common form of fraud.  He was also terminated for the sale of securities that were unapproved by SA Stone.   We believe those securities were Woodbridge securities.  SA Stone apparently allowed several months to elapse before taking action concerning the sale of Woodbridge.

Attention Investors of Western International

If you lost money investing with Western International, please call 1-866-817-0201.  The initial consultation with an attorney is free.  Jeffrey Pederson represents investors nationwide in securities brokerage disputes.

NYSE pic 2Western recently entered into a regulatory settlement where it neither admitted not denied the following facts.  Those facts are that from January 1, 2011 to November 5, 2015 (the “Relevant Period”), Western failed to establish, maintain and enforce a supervisory system to ensure that representatives’ recommendations regarding certain ETFs (exchange traded funds) and also failed to comply with certain securities laws in the sale of these ETFs.

In addition, Western allowed its representatives to (1) recommend Non-Traditional ETFs without performing reasonable diligence, the required level of investigation into the investments, to understand the risks and features associated with the investments, and (2) recommend NonTraditional ETFs that were unsuitable, either due to the known high level of risk in the investments or inherent complexity, for certain customers based on their ages, investment objectives and financial situations.

Non-Traditional ETF’s, such as the ETFs that were sold by Western, are designed to return a multiple of an underlying index or benchmark, such as the VIX or S&P, the inverse of that index or benchmark, or both, over the course of a day. As a result, the performance of Non-Traditional ETFs over periods of time longer than u single trading session “can differ significantly from the performance of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period or time.” Because of these risks and the inherent complexity of these products, FINRA has advised broker-dealers and their representatives that Non-Traditional ETIls “are typically not suitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for more than one trading session, particularly in volatile markets.”

We have spoken to a number of investors who have suffered similar losses and believe that such investments were intended for highly sophisticated investors only, such as hedge fund managers, and could not be legitimately sold to retail investors.  So if your were investing for retirement and were sold such investments, you likely have grounds for recovery.

Recovery of Woodbridge Loss

Landmark

Woodbridge investors believed real estate ensured the safety of their investments.

Investors of Woodbridge may have the ability to recover the losses they sustained.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 or 303-300-5022 for a free consultation with a private attorney concerning potential loss recovery.

Regulators have charged the Woodbridge Group of Companies with operating a Ponzi scam.  This creates liability on the part of those advisors selling Woodbridge.

There were glaring issues in these Woodbridge investments for an extended period of time.    These issues should have been discovered during reasonable due diligence by the brokers and agents selling the Woodbridge investments.  These investments should have been recognized as not being suitable for any investor.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had been investigating Woodbridge since 2016.  Woodbridge, the Sherman Oaks, California-based Woodbridge, which calls itself a leading developer of high-end real estate, had been under the microscope of state regulators even longer.   The focus of these regulators was the possible fraudulent sale of securities.

On December 21, 2017,  the SEC charged the Woodbridge Group of Companies with operating a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that targeted thousands of investors nationwide.  “The only way Woodbridge was able to pay investors their dividends and interest payments was through the constant infusion of new investor money,” per Steven Peikin of the SEC.

Prior to the charge, in January 2017, the SEC served a subpoena on Woodbridge for relevant electronic communications.  Woodbridge failed to respond to this subpoena.  This left the SEC to seek court intervention to compel Woodbridge to produce potentially damaging documentation the SEC believes existed.  The SEC filed its allegation that Woodbridge is a Ponzi scheme within weeks of its access to Woodbridge’s documents.

Through court filings, the SEC states that Woodbridge “has raised more than $1 billion from several thousand investors nationwide” and it “may have been or may be, among other things, making false statements of material fact or failing to disclose material facts to investors and others, concerning, among other things, the use of investor funds, the safety of the investments, the profitability of the investments, the sales fees or other costs associated with the purchase of the investments.”

Shortly after the issuance of the order sought by the SEC Woodbridge declared bankruptcy.  This filing does not extinguish the rights of investors.  These investors have claims against the brokers and advisors selling the investments.

Woodbridge has additionally stated that it has also received inquiries from about 25 state securities regulators concerning the alleged offer and sale of unregistered securities by unregistered agents.

The Woodbridge Group of Companies missed payments on notes sold to investors the week of November 26, 2017, and December 5, 2017 filed chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The company blamed rising legal and compliance costs for its problems.

Woodbridge said it had settled three of the state inquiries and was in advanced talks with authorities in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Michigan when it filed for Chapter 11 protection.

The company’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, resigned on December 2  but will continue to be paid a monthly fee of $175,000 for work as a consultant to the firm.

On August 14, 2018, Jerry Raines of HD Vest Investments entered into a regulatory settlement whereby he agreed to a bar from the securities industry to resolve the investigation into his sale of Woodbridge notes.  Raines operated from Kilgore, Texas.  Likewise, Donna Lynn Barnard, agreed to a similar sanction.

David Ferwerda likewise entered into a regulatory settlement concerning his sale of Woodbridge.  Ferwerda did not contest the charge and FINRA simply stripped him of his license.  This, however, does not exonerate either Ferwerda or his former employer, Signator Investors, of civil liability for losses.

Frank Roland Dietrich entered into a regulatory settlement with FINRA concerning sales in excess of $10 million of Woodbridge.  Dietrich was previously a broker with Quest Capital and Wunderlich Securities.  The FINRA settlement included Dietrich agreeing to a lifetime ban from the securities industry.

Gary Forrest of American Portfolios entered into a settlement with regulators in April 2019.

Likewise, Gary L. Pevey of Mutual Securities was suspended by FINRA for one year for the sale of Woodbridge.

Those at Woodbridge are not the only ones responsible for investor losses.  The Colorado Division of Securities is considering sanctions against investment advisor Ronald Caskey of Firestone, Colorado.  Caskey is the host of the Ron Caskey Radio Show.  James Campbell of Campbell Financial Group in Woodland Park, Colorado and Timothy McGuire of Highlands Ranch, Colorado are also the subject of regulatory investigations by the state regulator.  The Colorado Division of Securities has also begun investigating Jerry Kagarise of Security 1st Financial of Colorado Springs.  Another seller of Woodbridge in the Springs area is Carrier Financial.

These and other Colorado investment advisors have raised approximately $57 million from 450 Colorado investors.  Woodbridge continued to solicit investors through these advisors, in addition to radio and online ads, through October 2017, just prior to the bankruptcy filing.

While the regulatory actions will do little to compensate the damaged investors, these actions support private civil actions for recovery by investors.  We are investigating and in the process of bringing suit against Colorado investment advisors selling Woodbridge investments, and would like to share what we have learned with other investors in Colorado and nationwide.

Rueters is the source of some of the information contained herein.

Rights for Lisa Lowi Investors

Lisa Lowi has been sued 35 times  over the past three years for recommending unsuitable investments to her investors at Janney Montgomery Scott and RBC Capital Markets.  Unsuitable investments are investments that carry more risk than an investor is willing to take, such moderate to high risk investments for a retired investor.  Lowi has recently been barred from the securities industry from failing to comply with a regulatory investigation into her offering unsuitable investments.  If you are an investor of Lowi’s please call toll-free at 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney

In 2017, FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokers, was conducting an investigation of Lowi in connection with customer complaints and arbitration claims alleging, among other things, unsuitable trading.

On September 7, 2017, FINRA staff sent Lowi’s attorney a written request for testimony concerning the unsuitable securities allegations. As stated in Lowi’s attorney’s email to FINRA staff on October 11, 2017, and by this agreement, Lowi acknowledges that she received FINRA’s request and simply decided not appear for on-the-record testimony.  This is viewed as conceding the violation.

FINRA Rules require that brokers subject to FINRA’s jurisdiction provide information, documents and testimony as part of a FINRA investigation. FINRA rules provide that “[a broker] in the conduct of its business shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.” By refusing to appear for on-the-record testimony as requested pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210, Lowi violates FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010.

Jeffrey Pederson PC is a private attorney protecting the rights of investors and recovering investment losses nationwide.