Tag Archives: fraud

CFTC Uncovers More Frauds and Ponzi Schemes

This week alone the Commodities Futures Trading Commission issued 5 separate press releases regarding various frauds and ponzi schemes.   As we have noted many times before investors should make sure they conduct adequate due diligence into their managers.  It also goes without saying, but managers should not engage in fraudulent conduct, make misrepresentations to investors, lie to investors or regulators, or do anything that is contrary to what is stated in the investment program offering documents.  Four of the press releases are reprinted below.


Release: 5646-09
For Release: April 9, 2009

New York Court Enters Order Imposing a $240,000 Fine and Other Sanctions against New York State Resident Michael Vitebsky in a Foreign Currency Scam

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that it obtained $240,000 in sanctions and a permanent injunction in a consent order against Michael Vitebsky, a resident of New York State, in connection with his participation in an illegal foreign currency (forex) boiler room operation and for violating the anti-fraud provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act. The order also imposes permanent trading and registration bans on Vitebsky.

Vitebsky is obligated to pay the $240,000 civil monetary penalty upon satisfaction of a $220,000 forfeiture obligation entered in a parallel criminal proceeding, U.S. v. Vitebsky, E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 04 Cr. 0419.

The order was entered by Judge Leo I. Glasser of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and stems from a CFTC complaint filed in 2003 (see CFTC News Release, 4852-03, October 16, 2003). The order enters findings of fact that Vitebsky and others participated in a scheme in which Vitebsky used A.S. Templeton Group, Inc., a company of which he was the president and treasurer, to fraudulently solicit funds from customers for forex transactions.
According to the order, Vitebsky helped divert customer funds for unauthorized purposes and willfully made false representations to customers regarding the profitability of their accounts.

The CFTC would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for their assistance.

The following CFTC staff members are responsible for this case: Sheila Marhamati, Philip Rix, Steven Ringer, Lenel Hickson, Jr., and Vincent McGonagle.


Release: 5645-09
For Release: April 9, 2009

CFTC Charges Austin, Texas Resident Steven Leigh Shakespeare and His Company, Guardian Futures, Inc., With Fraud and Unauthorized Trading

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that it charged Steven Leigh Shakespeare, and his company, Guardian Futures, Inc., both of Austin, Texas, with fraud and unauthorized trading of customer accounts, resulting in combined customer trading losses of at least $196,000.

The CFTC complaint, filed on April 8, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleges that Shakespeare engaged in a series of unauthorized transactions and fraudulent acts in the accounts of Plains Grain Company, Inc. and Evans Grain Marketing LLC. The complaint charges that Shakespeare, throughout the course of the unauthorized transactions, made misrepresentations and omitted material facts to customers and to Alaron Trading Corporation, the futures commission merchant to whom Shakespeare had introduced the customer accounts.

On the same day the complaint was filed, the court entered a statutory restraining order preserving books and records and providing the CFTC immediate access to such books and records.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution to customers, disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, a permanent injunction, and trading prohibitions, among other sanctions.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

The following CFTC Division of Enforcement staff are responsible for this case: Timothy J. Mulreany, David Reed, Michael Amakor, Paul Hayeck, and Joan Manley.


Release: 5644-09
For Release: April 9, 2009

William D. Perkins of St. George, Utah Ordered to Pay More Than $2 Million in Sanctions in CFTC Ponzi Scheme Action

Universe Capital Appreciation Commodity Pool, Operated by Perkins, Part of Larger CFTC Action that Has Resulted in More than $45 Million in Judgments

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that it obtained a federal court order against William D. Perkins of St. George, Utah and Tax Accounting Office (TAO), Perkins’ private bookkeeping service, for more than $2 million in an anti-fraud action brought by the CFTC in 2006. The CFTC action alleged that Perkins fraudulently solicited $3.4 million from investors in a commodity pool he operated under the name Universe Capital Appreciation LLC. (See CFTC Release 5240-06 October 5, 2006.)

The opinion and order were entered on March 25, 2009, by U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler of the District of New Jersey.

Specifically, the order requires Perkins to repay $1.6 million to investors and a civil monetary penalty of $354,462, and prohibits Perkins from engaging in any business activities related to commodity futures or options trading. The court also ordered relief defendant TAO to repay $76,000 of investor money in which TAO had no legitimate interest.

In the opinion, Judge Kugler found that Perkins was reckless to solicit funds for his commodity pool without making a reasonable inquiry into the validity of representations that third parties made regarding the performance of the “superfund”, especially where Perkins had personal experience in three previous failed high yield investment schemes with one of the parties in which they had lost over $2 million of participant funds.

The CFTC complaint alleged that Perkins touted Universe Capital Appreciation LLC as a way for investors with less than $100,000 to participate in a so-called “superfund” that Perkins claimed was making “astonishing” profits of approximately 100 percent annually trading financial futures contracts. In fact, the CFTC complaint alleged that the “superfund” was itself a massive fraud that was the subject of other CFTC actions resulting in over $45 million in judgments. (See CFTC Press Releases 5447-08 February 7, 2008 and 5357-07, July 23, 2007.)

The following Division of Enforcement staff members are responsible for this case: Elizabeth M. Streit, Joy McCormack, Venice Bickham, Scott R. Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard Wagner.


Release: 5642-09
For Release: April 7, 2009

Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Two Nevada Corporations in $20 Million Commodity Pool Ponzi Scheme Operated by Tennessee Resident, Dennis Bolze

Court Freezes Assets of Centurion Asset Management and Advanced Trading Services; Bolze Is Arrested

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that on April 1, 2009, a federal court judge in Knoxville, Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction against defendant Centurion Asset Management, Inc. (Centurion) and relief defendant Advanced Trading Services, Inc. (ATS), both located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Judge Thomas A. Varlan issued the order that freezes the assets of Centurion and ATS and prohibits Centurion from further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act, as charged. The court determined that the preliminary injunction was necessary to protect the public from further loss and damage and to enable the CFTC to fulfill its statutory duties.

The order stems from a CFTC complaint filed on March 3, 2009, charging Dennis Bolze of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Centurion, with fraud and misappropriation in operating a $20 million commodity pool Ponzi scheme. (See CFTC v. Bolze, et. al., No. 09 C 88 [E.D. Tenn. 2009] and CFTC Press Release 5634-09, March 12, 2009).

As alleged, Bolze and Centurion operated a Ponzi scheme for at least six years that defrauded more than 100 investors and caused approximately $20 million in investor losses. ATS was charged as a relief defendant for receiving funds from defendants to which it was not entitled. Bolze and Centurion told investors that they were pooling and investing customer money in S&P 500 and NASDAQ 100 stock index commodity futures, but instead misappropriated most of the funds, according to the complaint.

Bolze Arrested on March 12

On March 12, 2009, Bolze was arrested in Pennsylvania by federal authorities in connection with a related criminal complaint. However, Bolze was in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service at the time of the March 31 hearing. As a result, Judge Varlan’s preliminary injunctive order did not address the CFTC’s charges against him.

In the continuing litigation, the CFTC is seeking permanent injunctive relief, return of funds to defrauded participants, repayment of ill-gotten gains, civil penalties, and other equitable relief.

The following CFTC Division of Enforcement staff are responsible for this case: Jon J. Kramer, Diane M. Romaniuk, Michael Tallarico, Mary Beth Spear, Ava M. Gould, Scott R. Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard B. Wagner.

Charges for Nadel

SEC Charges Missing Trader for Defrauding Investors at Sarasota-Based Hedge Funds


Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2009 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Arthur Nadel of Sarasota, Fla., with fraud in connection with six hedge funds for which he acted as the principal investment advisor. According to the SEC’s complaint, Nadel provided false and misleading information for dissemination to investors about the funds’ historical returns and falsely overstated the value of investments in the funds by approximately $300 million. Continue reading

Another Ponzi Scheme

Broken Record

I’ve said it all before.  The following press release can be found here.  Please see the following articles on hedge fund and investment advisor fraud.

Continue reading

Fraudulent Commodity Pool Operator Issued Injunction

A commodity pool operator is issued an injunction for fraudulent behavior.  In classic fashion, this fraudster touted performance results which were grossly inaccurate.  The scheme ended earlier this year and investors lost almost $6 million dollars.  As we’ve noted before, hedge fund investors (including those investors in commodity and futures hedge funds) need to make sure to complete due diligence on the hedge fund and hedge fund manager.  The release below details the events and injunction.  Continue reading

NFA Suspends Commodity Hedge Fund Firm

The NFA suspended the membership of SNC Investments, a firm which ran commodity hedge funds and commodity managed accounts.  The original post can be found here.

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Larry Dyekman (312) 781-1372, [email protected]
Karen Wuertz (312) 781-1335, [email protected]

NFA takes emergency enforcement action against SNC Investments, Inc. and its principal, Peter Son

October 31, Chicago – National Futures Association (NFA) announced that it has taken an emergency enforcement action that suspends SNC Investments, Inc. (SNC) and its principal, Peter Son, from NFA membership and associate membership, respectively. SNC is a Futures Commission Merchant, Commodity Pool Operator, Commodity Trading Advisor and former Forex Dealer Member. SNC is located in New York City with a branch office in Pleasanton, California.

The Member Responsibility Action (MRA), effective immediately, is deemed necessary to protect customers because SNC and Son have suddenly ceased operations, Son is reported missing, and there are allegations that millions of dollars in customer funds are also missing. Under the circumstances, NFA is unable to determine if SNC and Son are in compliance with NFA Requirements or if they have misappropriated customer funds.

Additionally, the MRA prohibits SNC and Son from soliciting or accepting any funds from customers, pool participants or investors. SNC and Son are also prohibited from placing trades on behalf of customers and from disbursing or transferring any funds of customers, pool participants or investors from any accounts without prior NFA approval. The MRA will remain in effect until such time SNC and Son have demonstrated to NFA that they are in complete compliance with NFA Requirements. SNC and Son may request a hearing before NFA’s Hearing Committee.

NFA is the premier independent provider of innovative and efficient regulatory programs that safeguard the integrity of the futures markets.

SEC brings fraud charges against investment advisor in connection with hedge fund investments

Investment advisors who recommend hedge fund investments should be very careful to disclose all material agreements between the advisor and the hedge fund and hedge fund manager.  In the case below an investment advisor recommend hedge fund investments to its clients without disclosing to such clients that the advisor was receiving a part of the performance fees that were paid to the hedge fund manager.

Advisors should also take note to the following two issues:

SEC jurisdiction over state registered investment advisors

Even though the advisor was registered with the California Securities Regulation Division and not the SEC, the SEC was able to take action under Section 206 (the anti-fraud provisions) of the Investment Advisers Act.  Additionally the SEC was able to bring charges against the investment advisor under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”).  This shows that the SEC’s has quite a few methods to assert jurisdiction over non-SEC registered advisors.

Potential violations of broker registration requirements?

Although I have not yet had a chance to read the unreleased complaint, I am wondering why the SEC did not charge this group with violating the broker registration requirements.  I think there is an argument that the investment advisory firm was acting as a broker.  I checked FINRA’s broker check and the firm did not come up as a registered broker.

Section 15(a)(1) of the Exchange Act generally makes it unlawful for any broker or dealer to use the mails (or any other means of interstate commerce, such as the telephone, facsimiles, or the Internet) to “effect any transactions in, or to induce or attempt to induce the purchase or sale of, any security” unless that broker or dealer is registered with the Commission in accordance with Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act.

The release below can be found here.

Litigation Release No. 20737 / September 24, 2008

Securities and Exchange Commission v. WealthWise, LLC and Jeffrey A. Forrest, United States District Court for the Central District of California, Civil Action No. CV 08-06278 GAF (SSx)

SEC Charges California Investment Adviser With Committing Fraud While Recommending Hedge Fund to Clients

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based investment adviser and its owner with fraud for failing to disclose a material conflict of interest when recommending that their clients invest in a hedge fund that made undisclosed subprime and other high-risk investments.

The SEC alleges that WealthWise LLC and its principal Jeffrey A. Forrest recommended that more than 60 of their clients invest approximately $40 million in Apex Equity Options Fund, a hedge fund managed by Salt Lake City-based Thompson Consulting, Inc. (TCI). According to the SEC’s complaint, WealthWise and Forrest failed to disclose a side agreement in which WealthWise received a portion of the performance fee that Apex paid TCI for all WealthWise assets invested in the hedge fund. From April 2005 to September 2007, WealthWise received more than $350,000 in performance fees from TCI. Apex collapsed in August 2007, and WealthWise clients lost nearly all of the money they invested.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, charges WealthWise and Forrest with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The SEC seeks an injunction, an accounting of the total amount of performance fees WealthWise received from TCI, disgorgement of those fees, and financial penalties.

On March 4, 2008, the SEC filed a civil action in federal district court in Salt Lake City against TCI and three of its principals in connection with the collapse of Apex and another hedge fund.

SEC files complaint against forex fraud


Last Wednesday the SEC filed a complaint against a forex hedge fund manager who was supposedly using a “trading robot” to generate huge returns. It turns out the forex hedge fund manager and the trading robot did not generate the outsized returns, but instead lost investor money. There are two very important items to note here:

1. It is scams like this that has the SEC and CFTC on the offensive to regulate the spot forex market.

2. Again, it is so important for all investors to do proper due diligence on managers and to make sure they know what they are investing in. These fraudsters give a bad name to all hedge fund managers and, sometimes, they can be stopped if the right questions are asked in the beginning.

SEC Release:

Litigation Release No. 20688 / August 22, 2008

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Royal Forex Management, LLC and Patrick H. Haxton, (U.S.D.C., Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Civil Action No. 3:08-CV-1467-L)

SEC Accuses Carrolton, Texas, Man of Selling Fraudulent Securities Involving Foreign Currency Trading

On August 20, 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an action in Dallas federal court to halt an alleged unregistered and fraudulent offering of securities by Patrick H. Haxton of Carrollton, Texas, and his company Royal Forex Management, LLC (“Royal”). The securities were investment contracts involving the trading of foreign currencies on the Forex market. On August 21, 2008, United States District Judge Sam A. Lindsay entered a temporary restraining order suspending the offering and orders freezing the defendants’ assets, requiring sworn accountings, prohibiting any alteration or destruction of documents and expediting discovery. The court set a hearing for September 4, 2008 to consider the Commission’s application for preliminary injunctive relief.

The defendants named in the Commission’s Complaint are: Patrick H. Haxton, age 51, of Carrollton, Texas, the owner and sole manager of Royal; and Royal Forex Management, LLC, a Texas limited liability corporation operated out of Haxton’s Carrollton home.

The Commission’s Complaint alleges that from at least June 2007 to the present Haxton, personally and through Royal, raised at least $305,000 from 8 investors in three states. Haxton offers the Forex investments through the Royal web site (www.royalforexmanagement.com), advertising on his work truck and personal contacts. Royal’s promotional materials and Haxton’s oral statements are replete with representations of phenomenal past trading returns, including claims of 400% to 500% annual returns, generated by a complex software program named “The Currency Trading Robot” (“Trading Robot”), purportedly created by Haxton. On the web site, Haxton claims to have a great history and to have been a very successful trader since 2000. Haxton and the web site also represent that there is very little risk of loss.

The Commission alleges, however, that these representations are materially false and misleading. For instance, the Commission contends that Haxton and Royal never generated the claimed phenomenal returns by trading currency. Indeed, according to the Complaint, Haxton lost a significant portion of investor funds trading foreign currencies and misappropriated the remaining funds for his own personal use. In some instances, investor funds were never traded, but were used to pay business and personal expenses.

The defendants are charged with securities fraud under Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and with conducting an unregistered offering under Section 5 of the Securities Act. The Complaint also seeks permanent injunctions, civil penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, among other relief, against each defendant.

The Commission would like to thank and acknowledge the assistance of the Texas State Securities Board in this matter.

CFTC order levies major fine on hedge fund trader


The CFTC ordered a hedge fund manager who operated four commodity pools to pay more than $279 mm in restitution to prior hedge fund investors as well a $20 mm civil penalty for his fraud. The manager concealed huge losses from investors by issuing false account statements which reflected consistently profitable trades. The hedge fund manager also misappropriated some of the investor’s assets.

Press Release:

Release: 5531-08
For Release: August 19, 2008

Hedge Fund Trader Paul Eustace and Philadelphia Alternative Asset Management Co. Ordered to Pay More Than $279 Million to Defrauded Customers and More than $20 Million in Civil Monetary Penalties in CFTC Action

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that Paul Eustace of Ontario, Canada, was ordered to pay more than $279 million in restitution and a $12 million civil penalty, based on an order that resolves a CFTC enforcement action against him for defrauding commodity pool participants in four pools that he managed.

The court also entered an order of default judgment against the commodity pool operator that Eustace controlled, the Philadelphia Alternative Asset Management Co. (PAAM), imposing permanent trading and registration bans, requiring payment of restitution of approximately $276 million, subject to offset by prior disbursements and payments by Eustace, and imposing an $8.8 million civil monetary penalty.

The supplemental consent order, entered by the Hon. Michael M. Baylson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on August 13, 2008, follows a July 13, 2007 consent order of permanent injunction against Eustace that enjoins Eustace from further violations, and imposes permanent trading and registration bans.

“This concludes a successful effort by our Division of Enforcement to stop fraud in its tracks, return as much money as possible to defrauded investors, and to bring wrongdoers to justice,” said CFTC Acting Chairman Walter Lukken.

The orders arise out of a CFTC complaint filed on June 21, 2005, and later amended, against Eustace and PAAM. (See CFTC Press Release 5091-05, June 29, 2005.)

At the outset of the litigation, the CFTC’s action froze all the assets under the control of PAAM and Eustace and preserved more than $70 million for return to pool participants. The CFTC also obtained the appointment of a receiver to recover and distribute funds to defrauded participants. Through related receivership litigation, an additional $96 million has been obtained to date for the benefit of defrauded pool participants. Defendants’ restitution obligation shall be offset by any funds distributed through the receivership.

As alleged in the amended complaint, and as the 2007 consent order found, from at least the spring of 2001 through June 2005, Eustace fraudulently operated four commodity pools: the Option Capital Fund LP (Option Capital Fund); and, through PAAM, the Philadelphia Alternative Asset Fund, L.P. (LP Fund); the Philadelphia Alternative Feeder Fund LLC; and the Philadelphia Alternative Asset Fund, Ltd., an offshore fund with over $250 million in assets. During this time, Eustace incurred losses of approximately $200 million trading commodity futures and options either in accounts held in the name of the funds or in his name. Eustace concealed those losses by issuing or causing to be issued, false account statements reflecting highly and consistently profitable trading results. Eustace also misappropriated assets of the Option Capital and LP Funds and received incentive and management fees through his fraudulent operation of the pools. Eustace was also charged with fraudulent solicitation and registration violations.

The CFTC Division of Enforcement appreciates the assistance of the Ontario Securities Commission and the National Futures Association in this matter.

In December 2007, the CFTC issued a related order filing and settling failure to supervise and recordkeeping charges against MF Global, Inc. (MFG), a registered futures commission merchant, and Thomas Gilmartin, a former associated person of MFG relating to their mishandling of certain trading accounts managed by Eustace and PAAM that sustained losses of approximately $133 million. MFG and Gilmartin paid collectively $2.25 million in civil monetary penalties and Gilmartin agreed never to seek registration with the Commission. (See CFTC Press Release 5427-07, December 26, 2007.)

The following CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members are responsible for this case: Gretchen L. Lowe, Michael J. Otten, Kara Mucha, Glenn I. Chernigoff, Richard B. Wagner, and Vincent McGonagle.

CFTC Announces Formation of Retail Foreign Currency Fraud Enforcement Task Force

Washington, DC— The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has formed a special task force charged with investigating and litigating fraud in the off-exchange retail foreign currency (forex) market.

The creation of the task force within the Division of Enforcement comes in the wake of Congress’ passage in June 2008 of “The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008” that clarified and strengthened the CFTC’s jurisdiction over this market. The task force will focus on fraud in the retail forex market and will work cooperatively with other federal and state regulatory and criminal authorities.

“The formation of the CFTC’s new Forex Enforcement Task Force reaffirms our agency’s commitment to stopping unscrupulous individuals working in this space. Not only do forex fraudsters prey upon unsuspecting citizens, but their illegal activities taint the reputations of those working honestly in the futures industry,” said CFTC Commissioner Michael Dunn, head of the agency’s Forex Education and Outreach Task Force. “This announcement sends a clear signal that the CFTC is on the beat, and that our continued and increased cooperation with law enforcement authorities will help put these forex dealers where they belong – in jail.”

“Forex fraud impacts investors of all stripes,” CFTC Acting Director of Enforcement Stephen J. Obie said. “With the creation of the retail forex task force, the CFTC has committed the resources necessary to expand its efforts to identify and prosecute those who commit fraud in the retail forex market.”

Since enactment of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000, the CFTC has filed nearly 100 enforcement actions against firms and individuals selling illegal forex futures and option contracts. To date, the CFTC has obtained judgments in these enforcement actions for civil monetary penalties of approximately $560 million and restitution of investor losses totaling $450 million.