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Jacob Robert Craton of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida submitted an AWC in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 45 days. Craton did not admit or deny FINRA’s findings but consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he knowingly circumvented his firm’s supervisory system and procedures, pertaining to penny stock transactions, by altering the conditions of an order to bypass principal review and approval. He also deprived the firm of the chance to review, approve, and otherwise supervise the transaction in accordance with its system and procedures.

Stephen Young Dealy of Port Orange, Florida submitted an AWC in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $10,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for four months. Dealy did not admit or deny FINRA’s findings but consented to the sanctions and entry of findings that he willfully failed to timely amend his Form U4 to disclose a federal tax lien. He additionally failed to report written complaints he received from his customers to the firm, thereby causing his firm to violate its obligation to report the complaints to FINRA.

Michael A. Greer of Mechanicsville, Virginia submitted an AWC in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $7,500 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for six months. Greer did not admit or deny FINRA’s findings but consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he falsified records and his firm’s books. After submitting change of broker forms to the custodian of customers’ mutual fund accounts, Greer was alerted that his customers had signed the wrong form. Instead of having his customers sign new forms, Greer electronically affixed, without the customers’ knowledge or authorization, copies of their signatures on the correct form, which he then submitted to the custodian and his member firm.

Shannon S. Hampton of Bossier City, Louisiana submitted an Offer of Settlement in which she was suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for four months. Hampton did not admit or deny FIRNA’s findings but consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that she engaged in check kiting by writing checks totaling $2,675 against her personal bank account that she knew contained insufficient funds, and depositing each check into a retail bank checking account. Hampton deposited the checks to benefit temporarily from the “float” on them and derive the use and benefit of the funds from the time they were credited to her account until other funds were deposited into the accounts.

Thomas Lucian Hines III of Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina submitted an AWC in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for one month. Hines did not admit or deny FINRA’s findings but consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he falsified an insurance document by signing an insurance customer’s signature on the document without the customer’s knowledge, authorization or consent. Hines signed the customer’s name on a form that falsely acknowledged the customer’s receipt of an insurance policy when in fact the customer had not yet received delivery of the policy.

Russell Darin Hurley of Signal Mountain, Tennessee submitted an AWC in which he was fined $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 30 days. Hurley did not admit or deny FINRA’s findings but consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he loaned $30,000 to a customer of his member firm but failed to notify the firm or obtain its advance written approval of the loan. Hurley made an inaccurate statement on his firm’s annual compliance questionnaire related to his outside activity of lending to the customer.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

Bulltick, LLC of Miami, Florida submitted an AWC in which the firm was censured and fined $20,000. Despite not admitting or denying FINRA’s findings, Bulltick consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that it failed to adequately implement and enforce its written supervisory procedures on reporting TRACE-eligible securities, pursuant to a Uniform Service Bureau/Executing Broker Agreement executed by the firm and its affiliate that required Bulltick to report the affiliate’s transactions in TRACE-eligible securities to TRACE. Subsequently, Bulltick failed to report the right contra-party identifier for transactions in TRACE-eligible securities of the affiliate to TRACE, and Bulltick also reported transactions in TRACE-eligible securities to TRACE that it did not have to report.

Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc. of St. Petersburg, Florida submitted an AWC in which the firm was censured and fined $50,000. Despite not admitting or denying FINRA’s findings, Transamerica consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that it filed with FINRA an inaccurate Form U5 on behalf of a former registered representative who failed to disclose that she had been charged with a felony prior to her termination. Transamerica knew that the representative had been charged with the felony while she was employed and registered with the firm. Transamerica also filed with FINRA an inaccurate and misleading Amended Form U5 for the representative that claimed she had not been charged with a felony before her termination and that she had not disclosed her arrest at the time of her resignation.

Worth Financial Group, Inc. of Dallas, Texas submitted an AWC in which the firm was censured and fined $10,000. Without admitting or denying FINRA’s findings, Worth consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that it failed to establish adequate supervisory systems or written supervisory procedures to monitor sales of life settlement investments by the firm’s registered representatives and non-associated individuals for whom the firm received override commissions. Worth failed to have any supervisory systems or written supervisory procedures in effect to discover if the states in which its licensees sold life settlements deemed them to be securities or required individuals who sold life settlements to have a specific registration or license. Worth also failed to have supervisory systems or written supervisory procedures in effect to make sure that registered representatives were performing reasonable-basis and customer-specific suitability analyses and disclosing both the risks and rewards associated with investing in life settlements. Worth further did not have a training program in effect to make sure that registered representatives understood the important features, risks, and suitability of life settlements.

Naveen K. Bhagwani of West Palm Beach, Florida submitted an Offer of Settlement in which he was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. Without admitting or denying the allegations, he consented to FINRA’s sanction and to the entry of findings that he engaged in unauthorized trading in customers’ non-discretionary accounts without the knowledge, authorization, or consent of the clients or anyone with trading power over the accounts. Bhagwani excessively traded, made quantitatively unsuitable investments, and churned customer accounts with the motive of creating commissions for himself and his member firm. He also misrepresented material facts to clients and created and forged customers’ signatures on a letter that authorized the transfer of their funds without their knowledge or consent.

Michael Vincent Borja of Miami, Florida submitted an AWC in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 45 days. Despite not admitting or denying the findings, Borja consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he engaged in wire transfer requests, from an imposter posing as a customer, without first obtaining verbal confirmation from the customer, which was against his member firm’s policies and procedures. Borja falsely represented in his firm’s records that he verbally confirmed wire requests with the customer and also gave false reasons for the customer’s transfer instructions. He additionally caused his firm to keep false books and records regarding the wire transfer requests.

William David Crain of Little Rock, Arkansas submitted an AWC in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for one month. Crain did not admit or deny the findings but consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he exercised discretion in a customer’s account without first obtaining written authorization to do so. The customer had given Crain discretionary trading authority in an invest-advisory agreement. Yet, Crain continued to exercise trading authority in the account after discovering the customer had died and the subsequent expiration of his discretionary trading authority. Crain executed trades with the knowledge and implicit consent of the surviving spouse, who was the account’s sole beneficiary, but she had not given Crain written discretionary authority.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

Micah Christopher Wilson of Gastonia, North Carolina was accused last week of defrauding investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Law enforcement agents with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Securities Division charged Wilson two counts of felony securities fraud and two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

Authorities believe Wilson conned several victims in Gaston and nearby counties, persuading them to invest money with him and his company, Creative Financial Concepts, Inc. Allegedly, Wilson told investors they would earn at minimum eight percent interest on their principal in an unspecified investment. Wilson, however, spent the money on himself and used it to pay other investors. Additionally, he failed to notify investors that he was not registered to sell securities.

Wilson is being held at the Gaston County Jail under a $1 million bond.

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall stated, “This is an ongoing investigation. We strongly urge anyone who believes they may be a victim of Mr. Wilson or Creative Financial Concepts to contact the Secretary of State’s Securities Division at 1-800-688-4507.”

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White stated that the agency will create stricter rules for broker. By doing so, the SEC will enter a long-standing war between Wall Street and the White House, which has asserted that biased financial advice is costing investors millions of dollars.

White’s comments follow on the heels of a move by the Labor Department to make brokers put the interests of retirement savers ahead of their own, which is called a fiduciary duty. The SEC has studied the issue for years but has yet to take any regulatory action.

White believes that the SEC should “implement a uniform fiduciary duty for broker-dealers and investment advisers where the standard is to act in the best interest of the investor.”

The financial industry has been watching closely for Ms. White’s position, which would break a standoff between the two Democrat and two Republican commissioners. White said she will begin talking with the other commissioners about the outlines of new rules.

White’s concern is “[g]etting the balance right.”

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

Last week, Alabama Circuit Judge Eugene Reese sentenced William Chris Blane of Vero Beach, Florida to fifteen years incarceration, which will be split to serve three years with five years probation that will be served up front. His probation was ordered in order for him to make restitution payments amounting to $2,926,870, plus fines and fees ordered by the Court and required by law.

Blane pleaded guilty to four counts of securities fraud in January, at which time his crimes were Class C felonies punishable by not more than ten years, nor less than one year and one day in prison and not more than a $15,000 fine per charge. Blane agreed to make restitution payments over a four year period during his probation.

Blane was indicted in May and November 2014 by Montgomery County, Alabama Grand Juries for his alleged role in the offer and sale of securities in EyeWonder, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia and Poly-Triplex Technologies, Inc./Poly-Triplex Investors, LLC, both of which are of Florida. According to the Alabama Securities Commission, Blane was not registered to legally offer and/or sell securities into, within, or from Alabama.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

James Allen Hall, formerly of Ocala, Florida, was arrested on March 9 in Kansas by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and is being charged with grand theft. Hall is currently awaiting extradition to Florida.

Hall acted as a Third Party Administrator of 401(k) plans for several Florida and out-of-state companies. Authorities believe that he altered plan participants’ email and residential addresses to his own without the participants’ knowledge or consent.

Additionally, he is believed to have created fraudulent expenses under the guise of administrative, miscellaneous, annual, and participant fees for his own personal gain. Hall purportedly placed sell orders on mutual fund holdings to fund his falsified expenses.

It is believed that Hall received more than $800,000 in illegal gains as a result of this scheme.

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) had been investigating Hall after receiving a tip from FINRA. OFR Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear stated, “Stealing Floridians’ hard-earned 401(k) savings is heinous and will not be tolerated. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians from financial fraud.”

“Investigating and exposing financial crime is the highest priority of the bureau,” said OFR Bureau of Financial Investigations Chief Robert Kynoch. “Thank you to all of our partners for their indispensable expertise in this case, including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.”

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

FINRA announced today that it has ordered Brookville Capital Partners, LLC of Uniondale, New York to pay restitution of over $1 million to the victims of a fraud relating to the sales of a private placement offering. The regulatory authority also ordered the firm to pay a $500,000 fine and barred its President, Anthony Lodati, from the securities industry.

FINRA found that Brookville and Lodati defrauded their customers between January and October 2011 in a scheme pertaining to the sale of a private placement offering called Wilshire Capital Partners Group LLC, through which investors would supposedly have an indirect interest in pre-initial public offering shares of Fisker Automotive.

During the period of illicit activity, Lodati discovered that John Mattera, a man with a substantial criminal and regulatory background, had effected transactions on behalf of Wilshire as Wilshire’s CEO and Managing Director. Lodati failed to disclose that Mattera had been sanctioned by the SEC in 2010 for securities fraud and convicted of a felony in Florida in 2003. Lodati and Brookville intentionally withheld this information and information about Mattera’s involvement with Wilshire and continued to solicit its customers to invest. In sum, Brookville sold over $1 million worth of interests in Wilshire to 29 customers. Brookville received more than $104,000 in commissions for the sales.

In settling this matter, Brookville and Lodati neither admitted nor denied the charges but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

Mark Cornell, owner of JMACK Energy, pleaded guilty to securities fraud in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky last week, admitting that he engaged in a scheme that bilked investors out of three million dollars. According to court records, Cornell’s co-defendants gave investors false information regarding oil wells to represent that they were producing massive amounts of oil.

In his plea agreement, Cornell confessed that his job in the scheme was to act as the local operator of a number of reworked wells for which production levels were exaggerated. He was paid a substantial amount of money to rework the wells and to provide guarantees of these excessive production levels. Those guarantees were then used to sell royalty interests in the wells to investors through high-pressure telephone tactics.

Cornell is scheduled to be sentenced in June. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

In addition to his criminal case, Cornell was sued by a Canadian investor, Kyle Coutu, for fraud and breach of contract. Coutu gave $52,580 to Cornell for investments. Cornell told him that he believed the oil well would produce ten to seventeen barrels of oil a day and a complete return on investment within the first month. Coutu, however, received nothing after several months, and Cornell cut off contact with him after getting the second investment. A $167,740 judgment was entered against Cornell last year in that case.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

Russell Hopkins of Northport, Alabama was sentenced in federal court to four years and three months in prison without parole for his participation in a $10.2 million securities fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes also ordered Hopkins to pay $673,465 in restitution to his victims.

The scheme allegedly bilked thousands of investors in both the United States and Canada who purchased shares in Petro America Corporation, which was represented to be a profitable company with $284 billion in assets.

Over 12,000 people invested more than $10.2 million in Petro America. Despite the representations made to the potential investors, Petro America had no oil or realistic prospects for obtaining, moving, or storing large amounts of oil. The company had no significant assets, no revenue, and no employees other than its CEO.

Hopkins solicited Petro America securities despite not being licensed to sell securities and multiple cease and desist orders. Hopkins and other conspirators used religious language in their pitches and often recruited through churches. They sold Petro America stock by making innumerable false misrepresentations and omissions to investors. For example, conspirators falsely claimed that Petro America was worth $284 billion and Petro America stock was worth $24 per share in order to induce people to invest. These numbers were unfounded.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.

The Frankowski Firm is continuing its investigation of Leavitt Sanders and the firms with which he has been associated as further allegations surface against them. John D. and Maxine S. Bankston of Lilburn, Georgia have accused financial adviser Leavitt Sanders of fraud and numerous securities violations. The couple, who are in their eighties, filed their claims with FINRA alleging that Sanders mismanaged and churned their securities accounts by trading excessively in high-risk investments, which included put and call options on futures contracts and day-trading massive stock positions on margin.

The Bankstons’ statement of claim asserts that “Mr. Sanders used a ‘one size fits all’ investment strategy with all of his clients, including the Bankstons, without regard to whether it was prudent or suitable.” According to the SEC, Sanders managed $30 million in about 200 investor accounts.

Triad Advisors, Inc., with whom Sanders was previously associated, fired Sanders on December 26, 2014. According to FINRA records, as of February 16, 2015, Sanders had fourteen customer complaints regarding allegations of account mismanagement.

The Bankstons’ attorney stated, “The Bankstons told Mr. Sanders that they needed income and did not want to take any unnecessary risks. Instead, he exposed their nest-egg to high-risk, speculative day trading, and options and futures investments.”

The Bankstons’ claim alleges violations of Georgia Blue Sky Laws; breach of fiduciary duty; common law fraud; constructive fraud; negligent misrepresentation; breach of contract, breach of duty, negligence; unsuitable trading; failure to supervise, and churning. They are seeking well-managed account damages, disgorgement of commissions, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and interest.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment with Leavitt Sanders, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit frankowskifirm.com.