The Law Office of David Liebrader is pleased to report $5.3 million in recent judgments and settlements against cannabis industry companies.

With the growth of the legal cannabis industry, unscrupulous operators and scam artists have been plying their trade, luring in unsuspecting investors with promises of outsized returns.

One case involves a $1.8 million judgment obtained in the Monterey County Superior Court against Zabala Farms of Salinas; a mid-size grow operation.  The Plaintiff had invested in a Zabala affiliate that sold unregistered securities.  The State of California issued a cease and desist order against the subsidiary, which was followed by an administrative action filed by the SEC. The investor was able to use the findings to obtain two judgments, one against the affiliate, and later, a judgment against Zabala Farms of Salinas in the Monterey Superior Court.

A Clark County, Nevada judge awarded an investor $153,295 in a judgment against life coach and entrepreneur Dustin Aab on September 14, 2023.

Mr. Aab, who goes by the moniker “Dustin da Closa” on Instagram, touts himself as a wealthy entrepreneur, and his social media is replete with pictures of fancy cars, private jets and bundles of cash.

Despite these trappings of millennial luxury, he was unable to repay the Plaintiff a $65,000 loan she made to him earlier this year.

On September 7, 2021 in the Clark County Nevada District Court, Chinese businessman Patrick Sun was ordered to pay $996,572 to an investor in his Chateau Le Trois EB-5 investment program. Mr. Sun previously known as Yao Jiang, from Shanghai, China, legally changed his name from Yao Jiang to Patrick Sun in the Clark County District Court by way of a name change filing in February, 2012.  Thereafter Yao Jiang began doing business under his new name, Patrick Sun.

In 2014, Mr. Sun and his then wife Ruomei Zheng put together a plan to develop a 14 acre parcel of land in the southwest Las Vegas valley to construct a mixed use development comprised of condos, a hotel and a convention center. They called the project “Chateau Les Trois.” The plan was to attract EB-5 investors, mostly Chinese nationals, who would provide the capital for a substantial portion of the development.

Mr. Sun didn’t own the land, which was located at 8030 W. Maule Ave near the 215 Freeway and Buffalo Drive in the southwest Las Vegas valley.  Instead, Mr. Sun – through an affiliated LLC – held an option to purchase the land from a third party.  Despite a written purchase contract to acquire the land, and numerous extensions provided by the seller, Patrick Sun never acquired the land, never pursued another EB-5 project on behalf of the CLT investors, and failed to return Plaintiff’s money.

Leveraged Silver Bullion Investments: Avoiding a Bad Bet

Leveraged silver bullion investments present an unacceptable risk reward choice for investors. Due to excessive costs, interest and fees, an investor is far more likely to lose his entire investment than to break even.

With the recent rise in gold prices, salesmen in an overlooked corner of the investment community have been busy dialing investors for dollars.  The gold and silver bullion industry is largely unregulated by state or federal agencies.  This regulatory blindspot has permitted the rise of boiler rooms using high pressure sales pitches to sell overpriced gold and silver bullion to unsuspecting investors.

Virtual Communications Corporation officer Vernon Rodriguez was found liable to a group of Plaintiffs who purchased Promissory Notes from the company in 2015. In addition to Mr. Rodriguez, former CEO, and current shareholder Ronald Robinson was also found liable and, pending the issuance of a final judgment, will be ordered to compensate the Plaintiffs. The case is Hotchkiss v. Ronald Robinson and Vernon Rodriguez, filed in Clark County District Court, case # A-17-762264-C. The Court’s decision was issued on April 27, 2020.

Virtual Communications Corporation, a  Las Vegas company raised about $4 million from investors throughout the country in an unregistered securities offering.  The securities took the form of promissory notes, and were personally guaranteed by Virtual Communications Corporation’s former CEO Ronald Robinson. Plaintiffs were purchasers of these promissory notes.

The Company claimed it ran out of money in early 2015, and stopped paying the nine percent interest to investors under the notes.  Afterwards, investors began to file lawsuits in Clark County District Court against the company and the guarantor Ronald Robinson.

Zabala Farms Group LLC Managers Hit with $3.8 Million Judgment

Zabala Farms Group, LLC managers Anthony Johnson and Jeremy Johnson were found liable to an investor, and ordered to pay him $3.8 million in damages for selling unqualified securities in the form of membership interests in GPA Enterprises, LLC and Target Equity, LLC.

On October 28, 2019 Judge William Barry presiding in Dept. S302 of the Riverside Superior Court (Murrieta branch) found in favor of the Plaintiff, and against Anthony Johnson, Jeremy Johnson, GPA Enterprises LLC and Target Equity LLC. The Plaintiff filed his complaint on May 29, 2019 asserting claims for violations of the California Securities Law of 1968, including claims for selling unqualified securities and selling securities via omissions of material fact. Judgment was entered by the clerk on November 4, 2019 in the amount of $3,829,833.

Carlos Isaac ordered to pay investor million dollar judgment.

On January 27, 2020 a Clark County Nevada District Court Judge issued a judgment in the amount of $1,054,309 against Carlos Isaac III, the manager of two Nevada limited liability companies; Mackiernan, LLC and C13 Holding, LLC.  Mr. Isaac used those companies to raise money from investors to purportedly assist with reconstruction efforts in Texas after Hurricane Harvey.

Carlos Isaac is a former financial advisor who worked for AR Global and Boston Financial. It was there that he met the client that would loan him the money for his two LLC ventures.  Mr. Isaac prepared promissory notes, which Plaintiff alleged were unregistered securities sold in violation of NRS 90.460.  Plaintiff purchased the promissory notes which provided for the payment of 8.5- 9% monthly interest, with a return of principal three years from initial investment.  The investments were made in 2016 and 2017, and as a result of the nonpayment of interest beginning in March, 2019, all three notes went into default.  Plaintiff sent demand letters to Carlos Isaac demanding the return of his principal, but Mr. Isaac never responded. Instead, he closed up his business operations in Las Vegas, and is believed to have relocated to Texas.

Ronald Roach a broker with Securities America Barred over DC Solar transactions.

Ronald Roach, a registered representative from Walnut Creek, California, formerly with Securities America, was barred from association with any broker dealer or registered investment advisor by the SEC after pleading guilty to wire fraud and securities fraud charges related to DC Solar.  The Court accepted his guilty plea on October 22, 2019.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 28, 2020 and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison as a result of a scam involving the sale and lease back of mobile solar electrical generators.

DC Solar, the company with which Roach and Joseph Bayliss were affiliated, solicited investors by stressing the tax benefits available from solar energy investments.  In addition to being a broker and an investment advisor, Roach prepared financial statements for DC Solar which the prosecutors argued improperly stated the returns being generated for investors on the DC Solar transactions.

Michael Tanha suspended by FINRA

Michael Tanha, a registered representative from Beverly Hills, California, formerly with Merrill Lynch, was suspended from FINRA membership for 10 months and fined $15,000 as a result of an investigation into his participation in outside business activated without obtaining the prior written approval of his member firm. The findings, contained in an acceptance waiver and consent agreement with FINRA state that Tanah engaged in private securities transactions by soliciting an investment from a firm client into a company that Tanha controlled. Among the outside businesses  that Tanha disclosed to Merrill Lynch are Boulevard Family Wealth and Boulevard Insurance Strategies, both of Beverly Hills, CA.  The suspension runs from May, 2019 through March, 2020

Michael Tanha’s registration and disciplinary history

Thomas Laws of Silver City, New Mexico charged by the SEC and Barred by FINRA

Thomas Laws, a registered representative from Silver City, New Mexico, formerly with HD Vest Investment Services, was barred from FINRA membership as a result of an SEC investigation into alleged misconduct in his handling of investor funds.  The Commission alleged that from 2016 through 2018, a business Laws controlled transferred  over one million dollars of investors’ funds to purchase a silver mine, acquire mining claims, purchase mining equipment, and for other corporate related activity.  The complaint alleges that instead of using the funds for corporate purposes, Laws misappropriated them and attempted to hide the theft by forging vendor invoices, bank records and signatures.

Laws then filed and certified periodic reports with the SEC, which the Commission alleges were materially false and misleading. As a result of this conduct Laws was arrested by the FBI at his office in New Mexico in August, 2019 and charged with three felonies related to the alleged theft.

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