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Securities Fraud Blog

Greco & Greco, P.C.

W. Scott Greco

Fight Investment Fraud

Greco & Greco's lawyers represent investors to recover losses caused by securities fraud, churning, lack of suitability, negligence, sales of unregistered securities, unauthorized trading, and other misconduct by stock brokers, investment advisors, financial planners and their firms.

For a Free Attorney Consultation, call us at 877-821-5550 or 

Unregistered Securities

Investigation Regarding Randy Watts of Winchester, Virginia

Greco & Greco is currently investigating possible claims regarding a Winchester, Virginia financial advisor, Randy Watts.  Mr. Watts operated under the name Watts Financial Group, and was registered to sell securities with Lincoln Financial Securities until November, 2015.

If you believe you may have a legal claim regarding investments with Mr. Watts or Lincoln Financial, please contact Scott Greco for a free consultation:  http://www.securities-lawyers.net/contact.html

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 12/22/15.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsLincoln Financial SecuritiesFINRAFraudPonzi SchemeSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Vienna Virginia Financial Advisor Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Customers

Ismail Elmas plead guilty on October 21, 2014 to a Count of Wire Fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release (which can be found here), Mr. Elmas worked at Apple Financial Services, an affiliate of Apple Federal Credit Union during the time of the offense.

FINRA’s Brokercheck Report for Mr. Elmas states that Mr. Elmas was previously registered as a securities registered representative with CUNA Brokerage Services and CUSO Financial Services, both FINRA Broker-Dealers.  The Brokercheck Report states that he was terminated by CUSO because he “allegedly converted funds for personal use…”

The above press release references that Elmas admitted to misappropriating client funds given to him for legitimate investments, and that he defrauded more than 10 of his clients, many of whom were seniors and widows. 

Greco & Greco is currently investigating and pursuing claims against the parties involved in the Elmas case.  Greco & Greco regularly represents investors in “selling away” cases such as this where the broker sells unauthorized securities or converts funds away from his firm.  Customers may attempt to recover their losses in FINRA arbitration and/or court by demonstrating firms’ failures to supervise, failure to follow up on red flags, and by arguing the firm is responsible for the acts of its agent under the legal theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability.  Federal and state securities laws also mandate liability of control persons (such as brokerage firms) if certain requirements are met.  If you are a victim of Mr. Elmas, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 10/27/14.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsCUSOCUNAFINRAFraudSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Virginia Regulators Require License Surrender and Fines over sale of 54 Freedom Products

A Settlement Order was recently issued by the State of Virginia (Bureau of Insurance and Division of Securities) against two insurance salespersons and their firm. The Order may be found here.

In the Order, the Virginia Regulators alleged as follows:

a.  “The Defendants, on multiple ocassions, sold over $2 million in unregistered securities in the form of qualified charitable gift annuities (“CGAs”) issued by 54 Freedom Foundation, Inc. (54 Freedom”) and promissory notes…”

b.  The brokers involved mischaracterized the investment risks involved with the investments and failed to conduct adequate due diligence.

c.  “Ultimately, principals of 54 Freedom misappropriated funds obtained through the sale of both 54 Freedom CGAs and Notes… As a result, all of the Defendants’ clients who purchased 54 Freedom CGAs or Notes appear to have lost their principal investments totaling over $2 million.”

Pursuant to the Order the salespersons surrendered their licenses to sell insurance and were required to pay monetary penalties.

If you were sold these investment products and wish to discuss your claims with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 06/09/14.
FraudPonzi SchemeSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Consent Order in Maryland Case Against Joseph Giordano

The Securities Commissioner of Maryland entered a Consent Order against former FINRA registered representative Joseph A. Giordano in May, 2013.  The Order can be found here. 

According to the Consent Order, Giordano violated the Maryland Securities Act by “misrepresenting or omitting to disclose material facts to investors, and making unsuitable recommendations.”  The investments at issue were Empire bonds and debentures.

Giordano was a FINRA registered securities salesperson with Capital Investment Group, Inc. from October, 1992 to June, 2012.  Mr. Giordano’s FINRA Brokercheck report states that he was terminated for cause by Capital Investment Group for “selling away and making false and misleading statements to the firm.”  The Consent Order states that Capital Investment Group raised issues of concern regarding Empire Corporation debentures in 2006.

Greco & Greco regularly represents investors in “selling away” cases such as this where the broker sells unauthorized securities away from his firm.  Customers may attempt to recover their losses in FINRA arbitration by demonstrating firms’ failures to supervise, failure to follow up on red flags, and by arguing the firm is responsible for the acts of its agent under the legal theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability.  Federal and state securities laws also mandate liability of control persons (such as brokerage firms) if certain requirements are met.  If you are the victim of a fraudulent sale of securities by a FINRA registered broker, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 09/09/13.
ArbitrationBondsBrokerage FirmsCapital Investment Group, Inc.FINRAFraudSecurities FraudState RegulatorsMarylandSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

AXA fined by FINRA Due to Broker Ponzi Scheme

As set out in this FINRA link, FINRA recently fined AXA Advisors, LLC for its failures to act in relation to the sale by its registered representative of a ponzi scheme.  The Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent documents failures to supervise by AXA including failures to follow up on red flags regarding the ponzi scheme.  One red flag was a suspicious excel spreadsheet found in an audit of the broker’s office.  The broker also had a checkered regulatory history which made him a “compliance risk.”

Greco & Greco regularly represents investors in “selling away” cases such as these where the broker engages in ponzi schemes or outright steals funds from customers.  Customers may attempt to recover their losses in FINRA arbitration by demonstrating firms’ failures to supervise, failure to follow up on red flags, and by arguing the firm is responsible for the acts of its agent under the legal theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability.  Federal and state securities laws also mandate liability of control persons (such as brokerage firms) if certain requirements are met.  If you are the victim of a ponzi scheme or broker theft by a FINRA registered broker, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 06/08/12.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsAXA AdvisorsFINRAPonzi SchemeSecurities FraudState RegulatorsSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

FINRA Ousts Firm and President for Fraud

As set out in this recent FINRA Press Release, a FINRA hearing officer expelled a member firm (Pinnacle Partners Financial) and its President.  The decision stated that Pinnacle operated a “boiler room” that placed thousands of cold calls per week soliciting investments in oil and gas drilling joint ventures.  Furthermore, the decision found the investments to be “fraudulent,” and determined that the monies raised were misused to pay back previous offerings and to pay personal expenses.  In addition to the expulsion from FINRA, the firm was ordered to offer full rescission to its customers.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 04/27/12.
FINRAPonzi SchemePrivate PlacementsSecurities FraudUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

SEC Fraud Charges Regarding The Nutmeg Group LLC

As set out in the SEC Complaint which can be found here, the SEC filed civil fraud claims in Illinois against The Nutmeg Group, LLC, Randall Goulding, and others.  The SEC alleges in its Complaint that Nutmeg was an investment adviser to 15 funds which invested fund assets in private investments in public equity (PIPE) transactions.  As a basis for its fraud claims, the SEC alleges in the Complaint that Nutmeg “improperly commingled investor and fund assets,” “misappropriated over $4 million in fund assets,” “failed to maintain the required books and records,” and “overstated the performances of its Funds to investors.”  (paragraphs 2 and 3 of SEC Complaint). 

All FINRA registered representatives are required to be registered with a FINRA firm (Broker-Dealer).  FINRA firms have legal responsibilities to supervise their registered representatives, and further may be found liable for the wrongful actions of their agents.  Examples of legal grounds for liability of Broker-Dealers in these situations include:

a) under tort and agency law, principals can be found liable for the acts of their agents even if they are entirely innocent and have received no benefit from the transaction;

b) a broker?s Broker-Dealer can also be found liable as a ?control person? of that broker under state and federal securities laws; and

c) claims can be pursued in arbitration based on violations of FINRA rules including Rules related to supervision, suitability, and outside business activities.

If you were sold investments in Nutmeg Group funds by a FINRA registered representative, and you would like to discuss legal options with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 06/08/11.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsPonzi SchemePrivate PlacementsSECState RegulatorsColoradoFloridaSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

FEBG / McLeod Receiver Files Initial Report

The Receiver appointed by the US District Court in Florida regarding the case against Kenneth Wayne McLeod and the Federal Employee Benefits Group Bond Fund (FEBG) has filed his initial report to the Court.  It can be found here.  Although the receiver is in the process of reviewing hundreds of boxes of documents, the initial findings regarding assets are not promising.  Reference is made to five pieces of real estate, but the amount of equity, if any, in the properties is unclear.  Furthermore, the bank and brokerage accounts found and frozen at this time only account for approximately $90,000.  The ponzi scheme allegedly involved over $34,000,000 invested by mostly government employees.

In his report, the Receiver encourages victims to contact their own attorneys to discuss potential claims against third parties.  As set out in our previous blog post, Mr. McLeod was a FINRA registered representative of Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation until May, 2010.  Prior to Lincoln, Mr. McLeod was FINRA registered with Capital Analysts, Incorporated and Washington Square Securities.  FINRA firms have legal responsibilities to supervise their registered representatives, and further may be found liable for the wrongful actions of their agents. If you are a victim of the FEBG bond fund ponzi scheme, and you would like to discuss legal options with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 08/27/10.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsCapital AnalystsLincoln Financial SecuritiesWashington Square SecuritiesFINRAPonzi SchemeSECUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

QUEEN SHOALS INVESTMENT FRAUD

According to this Western District of North Carolina Department of Justice release, Sidney Hanson of Charlotte, North Carolina pleaded guilty in July, 2009 to securities fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering in relation to an investment scheme known as Queen Shoals.  The SEC has also filed a Complaint related to the investment scheme.

The SEC states in the above Complaint that the Hansons and their sales force sold almost $33 million in “private loan agreements” to investors around the country.  The investments were allegedly to be placed in a diversified portfolio? of precious metals, foreign currency and treasury notes, generating high returns while remaining safe in non-depletion accounts.  In reality according to the SEC, the investment funds were invested “in a number of very risky private investment opportunities” and funds from new investors were used to pay off old investors.

Investors who were sold Queen Shoals investments by their stockbrokers, investment advisers, retirement specialists, or financial planners may have claims to be brought against related firms based on securities fraud, suitability, failure to do due diligence, misrepresentations and omissions, and other legal grounds.  Greco & Greco is currently investigating sales by FINRA registered parties in Virginia - please contact us for a free consultation if you believe you may have a claim.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 11/25/09.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsFINRAPonzi SchemeRetirementSECState RegulatorsNorth CarolinaSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

INVESTIGATION OF WORLD FINANCIAL GROUP CLAIMS

Greco & Greco, in conjunction with local Ohio counsel, is currently investigating alleged claims of individuals sold securities and real estate related investments out of the Ohio and Florida offices of World Financial Group and World Group Securities, specifically including sales made in relation to refinancing of mortgages.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently filed an enforcement action against five California World Group Securities’ representatives, including a branch manager, for selling unsuitable investments to customers, mostly variable universal life policies (VULs).  The SEC alleged that because many customers did not have the funds necessary to purchase the investments, the representatives urged them to refinance their homes from fixed rate mortgages into subprime adjustable rate negative amortization mortgages.  Read the SEC Release and Complaint here.

If you think you may have a claim and wish to speak to an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco toll free at 877-821-5550.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 11/26/08.
Brokerage FirmsWorld Group SecuritiesSECSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Universal Leases found to be Unregistered Securities

As set out more fully below on our firm’s website (link below), the sale of Universal Leases in the name of Resort Holdings, Yucatan Resorts, and Avalon Resorts have been found by many states to be violations of securities laws prohibiting the sale of unregistered securities.  The federal government has alleged that these investments relating to timeshares were a ponzi scheme.  The link below further has a link to the FBI press release regarding the arrest of Michael Kelly.
Greco & Greco Universal Lease page

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 08/03/07.
Ponzi SchemeState RegulatorsArizonaCaliforniaColoradoIllinoisMarylandPennsylvaniaTexasUtahUniversal Lease - Resort Holdings, Yucatan, AvalonUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

NASAA’s Top Ten Investment Scams

The North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA) has published a top ten list of investment scams, including ponzi schemes, affinity fraud, unlicensed securities sellers, prime bank schemes, and variable annuities sales practices:
NASAA Top Ten Investment Scams.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 07/20/07.
Affinity FraudPonzi SchemeUnregistered SecuritiesVariable AnnuitiesPermalink

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