Articles Posted in Fraud

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C is investigating recent filings by both FINRA and Ameritas Investment Corp. regarding the sales practices of James F. Anderson of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. Mr. Anderson also serviced clients through offices in Iowa and Nebraska. According to Mr. Anderson’s publicly-available FINRA BrokerCheck Report, Mr. Anderson was registered with Ameritas Investment Corp. from July 2004 until he was terminated by the firm for cause in February 2019. According to Ameritas, Mr. Anderson was discharged after the conclusion of an internal investigation which determined he had sold clients indexed annuities and promissory notes without authorization from the firm.  Not surprisingly, about two months later the first customer complaint appeared on Mr. Anderson’s BrokerCheck report, alleged that he sold $400,000 in promissory notes to the investor. Just this past week, on June 3, 2019, FINRA finally stepped in and barred Mr. Anderson from the securities industry for life. Mr. Anderson was technically barred for failing to respond to requests for information and to provide on-the-record (OTR) testimony pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210. Although the FINRA Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent does not reference his selling away activities, it does not take a grand leap of faith to conclude that his termination and the customer complaint specifically referencing selling away and selling promissory notes to clients was the crux of the investigation by FINRA. By refusing to show up and provide testimony, Mr. Anderson’s silence about his misconduct is deafening indeed.

Promissory notes are an all too common tool used by brokers and financial advisors to lure investor money into their pockets. First, it is important to understand that in almost all circumstances, promissory notes are securities, which means in order to be legal in your state, they must either be registered with the state securities department, or they must be exempt from registration. The exemption is still something that must be filed with the state. So, if your financial advisor wants to sell you a promissory note, or a loan agreement, or a “memorandum of indebtedness”, it does not really matter what they call it, functionally its the same: its a promissory note. Do yourself a favor and decline the offer and call your state securities department.  Stoltmann Law Offices has prosecuted dozens of cases involving “promissory notes”, many of which turned out to be Ponzi Schemes. Just recently, we have been litigating on behalf of investors who were sold promissory notes – called “Memorandum of Indebtedness” – in now bankruptcy 1 Global Capital.

The good news for investors who get swindled into investing in promissory notes, including those who bought them from Mr. Anderson, regardless of whether Ameritas says these were approved, Ameritas is legally bound to supervise the activities of all of its registered representatives.  Further, because a promissory note is a security, and because Mr. Anderson’s job through Ameritas was to provide financial advice and sell securities, Ameritas can be liable for Mr. Anderson’s conduct through what is called Respondeat Superior. This legal theory means that the principal (Ameritas) is responsible for the conduct if its agent (Anderson) performed within the scope of his employment (selling securities and providing investment advice).  So, for investors who purchased promissory notes through Mr. Anderson, you have two avenues of recovery against Ameritas and Stoltmann Law Offices urges you to call our Chicago-based law firm at 312-332-4200 to discuss filing a FINRA Arbitration claim to recover your losses.

If you or someone you know is a victim of financial fraud perpetrated by Ed Matthes of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, there is legal recourse that could lead to the recovery of those stolen funds.  According to published reports, Ed Matthes, who was a registered representative for Mutual of Omaha Investor Services until March 12, 2019, missappropriated and stole upwards of $1 million from his clients.  According to the cease and desist order entered by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Matthes stole money from client annuities after convincing them to give him authority to enter transactions and withdraw funds on their behalf.  Providing this level of authority to a financial advisor is rarely a good idea, but Ed Matthes was able to elicit a substantial level of trust and confidence from his clients. He created fake account statements which masked the withdrawals he had been taking, hiding his misconduct for years.  Matthes was also barred by FINRA – the regulatory body charged with overseeing and disciplining financial advisors and their firms.

According to Matthes’s FINRA Broker/Check report, several customer complaints have been filed against Matthes’s former firm, Mutual of Omaha Investor Services. These claims were filed as arbitration actions through FINRA’s Dispute Resolution program. Mutual of Omaha is certainly a viable target for Matthes’s fraudulent scheme since at all times he was a registered representative of the firm and as such, Mutual of Omaha had a duty to supervise his activities.  Case law establishes that brokerage firms like Mutual of Omaha can be held liable for negligent supervision even when the activities of the schemer fall outside the scope of his employment with the firm.  See McGraw v. Wachovia Securities, 756 F. Supp. 2d 1053 (N.D. Iowa 2010). Here, Mutual of Omaha had an obligation to supervise the withdrawal of funds from Matthes’s clients’ annuities to ensure they were legitimate, as part of the firm’s anti-money laundering compliance apparatus mandated by the Bank Secrecy Act, and NASD Notice to Members 02-21 and NASD Notice to Members 02-47.

Similarly, the annuity companies from which these funds were converted could have liability to the victims too. Anytime investors withdraw substantial amounts of money from annuities, the annuity company should be on alert, and presumably Matthes had the funds directed to a third party, which is a serious red flag. Stoltmann Law Offices will pursue all viable options to recover our clients’ funds.

The Chicago-based securities and investment fraud attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices are investigating claims by victims of former Securities America financial advisor Hector May. According to the criminal information filed against Mr. May in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Mr. May was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and investment advisory fraud in Case No. 18-cr-00880. On January 14, 2019, May’s guilty plea was formally accepted by Judge Vincent L. Briccetti. His sentencing date has yet to be provided by the court. By pleading guilty, May consented to a monetary judgment of $11,452,185 and agreed to forfeit certain property including multiple fur coats, Cartier bracelets, and Rolex watches.

According to published reports, on February 14, 2019, the SEC formally barred May from the securities industry. This bar seems obvious given he pleaded guilty to criminal charges, but the SEC cannot proceed with any portion of a civil case until the criminal matter wraps up. The SEC complaint against May provides some details about his scam which included selling bonds to his fiduciary advisory clients that did not exist. The SEC states May’s scam bilked at least $7.9 million from at least 15 advisory clients. The SEC also states that May executed this scheme with his daughter, Vania May Bell. This father-daughter duo devastated several families.

At all times relevant, May was a licensed, registered representative of Securities America which is a registered broker/dealer and subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial. May also provided his investment advisory services under the umbrella of a Registered Investment Advisor called Executive Compensation Planners, Inc.  According to FINRA Rules, Securities America had an obligation to supervise Mr. May and his conduct even if it was executed through Executive Compensation Planners. According to FINRA Rule 3280 and  at least three NASD Notices – NTMs 91-32, 94-44, and 96-33 – Securities America was responsible for supervising May’s conduct. In a case decided by the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, the court ruled that this duty and obligation to supervise can apply to even those people that are not formally clients or account owners of the firm, like Securities America here. See McGraw v.Wachovia Securities, 756 F. Supp. 2d 1053 (N.D. Iowa 2010 ).

Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating misconduct reported by FINRA alleging that Kristian Gaudet of Cut Off, Louisiana, utilized customer funds for personal use. According to his publicly available FINRA BrokerCheck Report, FINRA initiated an investigation into Mr. Gaudet on November 30, 2018 based on suspicions that Mr. Gaudet was involved in potentially fraudulent activities. Only a few weeks later, Mr. Gaudet was terminated by Ameritas Investment Corp., alleging Mr. Gaudet used client funds for personal use. Finally, on January 24, 2019, FINRA barred Mr. Gaudet for failing to appear for  on-the-record testimony in connection with the allegations he used client funds for personal use.  Pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210, if FINRA requests a broker sit for on the record testimony (called an OTR) and the broker either refuses or simply does not show up, it can be grounds for being permanently barred from the securities industry.  FINRA also cited Mr. Gaudet for violating FINRA Rule 2010.

Typically, brokers who refuse to show up for a Rule 8210 request do so knowing they are sacrificing their securities licenses. Some brokers may be near retirement or are not interested in maintaining their licenses, so they rather not submit themselves to an OTR, which can be stressful and require retaining legal counsel. Other brokers fail to show up for an OTR because they fear the testimony they will give may be incriminating if they are truthful. The FINRA AWC agreed to and signed by Mr. Gaudet only states he failed to show up for the OTR and provides no further explanation for barring him from the securities industry.

Routinely, financial advisors who steal money from their clients do it in such a manner which should have alerted their firm’s compliance or supervision departments. Whether there were unauthorized withdrawals or transfers from your accounts, every FINRA brokerage firm, like Ameritas, is required to adhere to Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations in order to ensure a level of alertness in these circumstances. Failing to properly execute these procedures which result in a broker absconding with clients money results in liability for the firm for negligent supervision.

AdobeStock_78306447-1-300x199Stoltmann Law Offices continues to investigate Anthony Diaz, a broker with IBN Financial Services in Pennsylvania. Diaz allegedly began over-concentrating a client’s irreplaceable retirement assets into high-risk, commission-laden private placements, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other illiquid, alternative investments. The customer was looking to generate income, while protecting his principal. He agreed to move his assets to IBN with the understanding that he was looking for stable investments. REITs, private placements and other alternative investments that Diaz recommended and sold to him, did not align with the customer’s wishes, and Diaz, as his financial advisor, had a duty to only recommend and sell to him those investments that were suitable for him, based on his age, net worth, investment objectives and investment sophistication and risk tolerance levels.
In November 2012, Diaz solicited the customer to purchase $350,000 worth of Bakken Drilling Fund III, which is now defunct. It is an oil, gas and energy stock, and these tend to be highly risky and illiquid investments. The fund filed for bankruptcy in October 2016, after raising over $20 million from 309 investors. This is according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He also put him into Ameritech College Holdings for $95,000, ARC NY REIT, and ICAP Pacific Northwest Opportunity Fund.
According to publicly available records with FINRA online, Anthony Diaz has been permanently barred from the securities industry, and has 56 disclosures on his CRD report. 44 of these are customer complaints against him. He was registered with IBN Financial Services in Scotrun, Pennsylvania from September 2012 until April 2015. IBN can be liable for losses if you lost money because of Anthony Diaz.

AdobeStock_77502568-1-300x199Former UBS broker John MacColl was charged with defrauding more than 15 retail investors in a $4 million scheme. He used high-pressure sales tactics that targeted mostly elderly retirees, according to a complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in federal court in Michigan. He persuaded clients to invest in a “highly-sought-after” private fund that would diversify their portfolios and provide investment returns as high as 20%, exceeding the returns they would receive with investments at UBS. Between 2008 and 2018, MacColl told investors to sell or take a line of credit out against the securities in their accounts and to deposit the money into their personal bank accounts, according to the complaint. He then told them to make checks payable to “Mac 011” or “Mac01”. He then added his name to the payee line and deposited the checks into his own account. Other criminal charges were filed in a federal court in Michigan this week. One victim invested her life savings and money from her deceased husband’s life insurance payout, which she was going to use to pay for college for her three children. MacCall spent the money on personal expenses, and about $410,000 was used to pay back other investors in a ponzi-scheme fashion.

AdobeStock_66548440-1-300x169The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has barred former Comprehensive Asset Management broker Pamela Shuttleworth, from the securities industry. Ms. Shuttleworth had violated securities laws and internal firm rules. Ms. Shuttleworth failed to respond to a FINRA investigation against her, which resulted in her automatic bar. FINRA was investigating her regarding allegations that she was the supervisor responsible for monitoring the emails of a former representative of her brokerage firm, Comprehensive Asset Management. Pamela Shuttleworth was a registered representative of Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing from December 2014 until June 2017. She worked in the Parsippany, New Jersey branch. Comprehensive may be liable for losses in the FINRA arbitration forum because the firm had a duty to reasonably supervise Shuttleworth while she was employed there. We take cases on a contingency fee basis only.

AdobeStock_112465076-1-300x164Stoltmann Law Offices continues to investigate National Securities Corp broker Jonathan Aschoff and his recommendations of the following Biotech securities:

Avenue Therapeutics Inc (ATXI.O);

Checkpoint Therapeutics Inc (CKPT.O); and

AdobeStock_82110313-1-300x125According to a recent Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), former Robert W. Baird broker Patrick Phillips has violated securities laws. Mr. Phillips allegedly accepted two loans from a firm customer totaling $70,000. He also used a personal email account for business purposes in contravention of policies. This prevented CGMI from discovering emails related to the customer loan. For this misconduct, he was fined $10,000 and suspended from the industry for five months.
Patrick Jermaine Phillips, according to online records, is not currently registered as a broker, and has been suspended from the securities industry. He has one customer dispute against him, alleging the taking of a loan from a firm customer, and one regulatory matter against him. He was previously registered with MSI Financial Services in Chicago, Illinois from October 2016 until December 2016, Citigroup Global Markets in Orland Park, Illinois from August 2013 until July 2016, Ameriprise Financial Services in Chicago from August 2010 until August 2013, and Robert W. Baird in Chicago from December 2006 until August 2010. Robert W. Baird may be liable for Phillips losses on a contingency fee basis in the arbitration forum. The firm had a duty to reasonably supervise its brokers.

AdobeStock_200379710-300x200Stoltmann Law Offices continues to investigate Healthcare Trust REIT, a non-traded real estate investment trust (REIT), that seeks to acquire a diversified portfolio of real estate properties focusing primarily on healthcare-related assets including medical office buildings, seniors housing, and other healthcare-related facilities. This is according to the company’s website. Recent news suggests that Healthcare Trust may be in further decline, and that investors may have lost money in the REIT. REITs are not suitable for all investors. They tend to be highly illiquid and risky investments, and a broker must take into account a customer’s age, net worth, investment objectives and investment risk tolerance, among other factors before recommending or selling any investment. If he does not, his brokerage firm may be liable for losses on a contingency fee basis, because the firm has a duty to reasonably supervise its representatives in order to make sure they do not violate securities laws or internal firm rules. You may have options if your broker recommended or sold you Healthcare Trust REIT investments. We take cases on a contingency fee basis only.

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