EB-5 Fraud is on the rise.  From immigration attorneys acting as unregistered broker-dealers to scammers preying on unsuspecting investors the field is a potential trap for the unwary.

In 1990 the US Congress devised the Immigration Investment Program in the hopes of attracting capital to the US from foreign investors.  The program came to be known as the EB-5 program.  As a means to attract investments Congress offered the potential for Visas, “Green Cards” and residency status to foreigners who agreed to invest at least a million dollars into a business that agreed to employ or continued to employ at least ten full time US workers.  The EB-5 program also provided that a $500,000 investment in a “rural area” or an area of “high unemployment” would qualify.

As a result, investments grew around so called “Regional Center Investments” such as hotels, business parks, warehouses or other “economic units” that offered the prospects for job growth.

Future Income Payments information for investors

In the past several years multiple state finance and securities regulators have filed enforcement actions against Henderson, Nevada based Future Income Payments LLC to stop them from targeting pensioners – many of them military veterans- with a pitch to “cash out” their pensions and receive a lump sum payment.  Some of these pension advance transactions are structured like loans, charging above market rate interest rates.  The decision to sell the rights to a pension at a discount is fraught with perils, and could be one of the worst mistakes a retiree ever makes.

On the other side of the Future Income Payments transaction are investors who were contacted by Registered Investment Advisors or brokers looking for investors to “fund” the “loans” to the Pension recipients.  Investing in these transactions is full of risks, including the lack of transparency, high commissions and fees, and an inability to collect in the event of default.

Sheaff Brock Put Option Income Strategy Caused Losses

The securities attorneys at The Law Office of David Liebrader have opened an investigation into the securities related conduct of Sheaff Brock a registered investment advisor that offered a put option income strategy that it described as a conservative way to earn income.

Sheaff Brock described the program as a conservative “income generator”, which belied the actual risks associated with the strategy that targeted stocks with increased volatility.  Sheaff Brock represented that the strategy would stack small monthly gains from its proprietary strategy, which would amount to a six percent annual return, without incurring substantial risk.

Peter Lewis Morgan Stanley broker TSLA option trading investigation

The securities attorneys at The Law Office of David Liebrader have opened an investigation into the securities related conduct of Peter Lewis a registered representative affiliated with the Morgan Stanley office in Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The pending customer dispute that gives rise to this investigation concerns a number of high risk option trades in TSLA Motors that Peter Lewis made for a customer while at Morgan Stanley in the Fall of 2016.  TSLA is a growth stock that has enjoyed significant price appreciation over the past several years.  The pending customer complaint describes an environment where Mr. Lewis was particularly negative on TSLA Motors, and made sizeable “bearish” options transactions in the customer’s account.  These trades resulted in significant losses.

Allegis Investment Advisors ordered to pay investors $911,000.

On January 8, 2018 an American Arbitration Association panel issued a $911,000 binding arbitration award to clients of the Law Office of David Liebrader.  The award stems from options trading losses losses suffered by the clients in 2015.  The award of $911,000 was issued against Allegis Investment Advisors, a registered investment advisor based in Boise, Idaho.  Allegis offered a complex options trading strategy to its clients known as a net credit spread strategy.

In August 2015 this strategy failed spectacularly, causing over $39 million in losses to Allegis’ clients.  The Law Office of David Liebrader filed a AAA arbitration against Allegis Investment Advisors on behalf of six clients who lost a combined $636,000.  In December 2017 an arbitration hearing was held over seven days in Salt Lake City, chaired by arbitrator James Holbrook.

Alvery Bartlett investigation into oil and gas private placements

The securities attorneys at The Law Office of David Liebrader have opened an investigation into the securities related conduct of Alvery Bartlett a registered representative formerly with Berthel Fisher and Company, now with Arête Wealth Management.

The pending customer dispute that gives rise to the investigation concerns a number of high risk private placements into oil and gas investments, as well as private equity, including Nytrox and the Alvery Bartlett Hedge Fund. Mr. Bartlett recommended these illiquid, high commission investments that were supposed to provide income and a safe return of principal.  Instead, due to an over concentration into these programs, the customer suffered substantial losses.  Among the investments at issue are: Atlas Oil and Gas, Noble Access Fund, PDC Energy, Strategic Energy Income Fund, and Waveland Drilling Partners.

Jon VanSlooten, a registered representative from Toledo, Ohio, formerly with Edward Jones, was suspended from FINRA membership as a result of an investigation into his discretionary trading without the consent of his customers or firm. VanSlooten entered into an acceptance, waiver and consent agreement with FINRA in which he neither admitted nor denied the findings, but agreed to a suspension of three months and a fine of $7,500.

In June 2017, Jon VanSlooten agreed to the suspension and FINRA published its findings that he participated in discretionary trading without telling his customers. Discretionary trading occurs when a broker is permitted to sell securities and investments on his or her own with the agreement of the client. The broker is essentially given control and discretion over when, where and in what amounts the transactiosn will be made.

VanSlooten made nearly 600 trades for four of his customers without gaining their consent or telling his firm. Edward Jones’ Written Supervisory Procedures do not allow discretionary trading and because of this, he was fined and suspended by FINRA.

John Piccarreto, a registered representative from San Antonio, Texas, formerly with First American Securities, was suspended from FINRA membership as a result of an investigation into his private business transactions and dealings with another company other than his firm, which is a violation of FINRA rules. Piccarreto entered into an acceptance waiver and consent agreement with FINRA in which he neither admitted nor denied the findings, but agreed to a suspension of 24 months and a fine of $15,000. He also must reregister as a representative after passing the required examination.

In June 2017, John Piccarreto agreed to the suspension and FINRA published its findings that he took part in multiple private securities dealings in which he offered investments to some of his clients without reporting the transactions to his firm. He received $500 per week from a different company for his private work with investments.

FINRA also discovered that he was not candid on the record during an investigation into his work on the private offerings. He said that he did not have any knowledge of any type of outside dealings, and knew nothing about the offerings.  This was later found to be untrue, as he was closely involved with multiple private transactions.

Jeffrey Noard, a registered representative from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, formerly with Allied Beacon Partners, was suspended from FINRA membership as a result of an investigation into unsuitable recommendations made to an elderly client who purchased debentures. Noard entered into an acceptance waiver and consent agreement with FINRA in which he neither admitted nor denied the findings, but agreed to a fine of $2,500 and a suspension of ten business days.

In June 2017, Jeffrey Noard agreed to the suspension, and FINRA published its findings that Noard violated FINRA’s suitability rules which state that a broker must have a reasonable basis and belief that their customer is able to bare the risk of loss, and that the investment is otherwise appropriate given the investor’s age, net worth, income and investment objectives. FINRA found that Noard did not abide by the suitability rule, and recommended an unsafe and unsuitable renewable secured debenture. Noard claimed the debentures were safe and liquid, when in fact the opposite was true. The investor did not receive any of their primary capital before the debentures matured, and it was nearly impossible to resell them on the market.

FINRA found that Noard did not let his customer know the risks associated with this purchase, and did not assess the customer’s financial stability correctly in order to establish that this was a suitable investment for her.

Christopher Hickman, a registered representative from Boynton Beach, Florida, formerly with Cetera Advisors, was fined and suspended from FINRA membership as a result of an investigation into his Unit Investment Trust (UIT) trading for multiple clients, conduct deemed a violation of FINRA rules. Hickman entered into an acceptance, waiver and consent agreement with FINRA in which he neither admitted nor denied the findings, but agreed to a suspension of five months and a fine of $5,000.

In June 2017, Christopher Hickman agreed to the suspension and FINRA published its findings that Hickman encouraged six customers to buy UITs, and then traded them carelessly within a short period of time.

The UITs that Hickman dealt with had 24 month maturities, but Hickman traded them in less than 5 months. He told his customers to use the profits from these trades to buy additional, smaller UITs for him to manage. Overall, Hickman’s clients lost over $100,000 and the AWC disclosed that he entered into a settlement agreement with them in order to pay back their losses plus interest.