Securities and Exchange Commission v. MJ Capital Funding, LLC, et al. was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida on August 9, 2021, claiming that defendant Johanna M. Garcia ran a Ponzi scheme using her companies and co-defendants, MJ Capital Funding, LLC and MJ Taxes and More, Inc., to trick investors into believing they were funding loans to small businesses, when in reality, the investors’ “returns” were funded with money obtained by new investors.

Continue Reading New Complaint – SEC v. MJ Capital Funding, LLC, et al.

Fatime Abdel-Fakhara, et. al. v. The State of Vermont, et. al., was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont on August 24, 2021 by investors claiming that the State of Vermont and several individual Defendants wrongfully solicited and used investor funds to complete the last two phases of a Vermont ski resort after they had knowledge that the first six phases were funded through a Ponzi scheme. The complaint alleges claims for: (1) civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) constitutional taking without just compensation against the State of Vermont; (3) constitutional taking with no Due Process against the State of Vermont; and (4) gross negligence against the individual defendants.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Fatime Abdel-Fakhara v. The State of Vermont

Ponzi schemes focused on fake investment opportunities are nothing new. Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford and Tom Petters are now household names. But there has been a particular rise of Ponzi schemes specifically in the film and video content industry that has intensified in the last few years.

As streaming services vie for dominance in the frenzied content wars in an effort to draw in more and more viewers, this trend is likely to accelerate. These streaming services will spend tens of billions of dollars this year alone creating and acquiring video content.[1]

These conditions create a perfect breeding ground for Ponzi schemes, given the amount of money changing hands and the lax due diligence standards investors sometimes accept in exchange for the chance to tap into this hot market.

In the last year alone, the largest film financing Ponzi scheme in U.S. history collapsed, and these schemes spread to overseas markets, like China.


Continue Reading Ponzi Schemes: A Growing Hazard in Film Financing

Mills v. Trustmark National Bank, et al. was filed in the Southern District of Mississippi on August 19, 2021 by a receiver appointed on behalf of companies engaged in a scheme to defraud investors by producing false deeds for the purchase and sale of timber.

Plaintiff Alysson Mills (“Plaintiff”) is the Receiver for Arthur Adams (“Adams”) and his company turned Ponzi scheme Madison Timber Properties, LLC (“Madison Timber”).  The defendants are Trustmark Corporation d/b/a Trustmark National Bank (“Trustmark”), Southern Bancorp Bank (“Southern”), Riverhills Bank (“Riverhills”), Bennie Butts (“Butts”), and Jud Watkins (“Watkins”) (collectively, “Defendants”).  Butts and Watkins were employees of Trustmark and Riverhills during the alleged Ponzi scheme.


Continue Reading New Complaint – Mills v. Trustmark National Bank, et al.

Puleo, et al. v. Nelson, et al. was filed in the Central District of California on August 10, 2021, seeking damages based on more than thirty claims for violation of various state and federal securities laws, elder financial abuse, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with a real estate Ponzi scheme.

Plaintiffs are numerous individual and trustee investors who invested in student housing projects either as individuals, through their business enterprises, or as trustees of trusts.  Defendants are Nelson Partners, a California limited liability company that sponsored the offering of the real estate interests, Patrick Nelson as the sole owner, president, and chief executive officer of Nelson Partners (collectively, “Nelson Partners”), Axonic Capital LLC, a hedge fund (“Axonic”), and various other individual and corporate investment advisors and funds affiliated with Nelson Partners and Axonic.


Continue Reading New Complaint – Puleo, et al. v. Nelson, et al.

Chang, et. al. v. Interactive Brokers LLC (“IB”) was filed in the Northern District of California on August 2, 2021. The complaint seeks civil damages for claims of aiding and abetting fraud, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of California Business and Professions Code.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Chang, et. al. v. Interactive Brokers LLC

Sedlar-Sholty, et al. v. Acclivity West, LLC, et al. was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles on July 19, 2021 seeking damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent and intentional misrepresentation in connection with a life settlement investment Ponzi scheme.

Plaintiffs are numerous individual and trustee investors who made investments in life insurance policies, either independently or through their retirement programs.  Defendants are Acclivity West LLC (“Acclivity West”), a California company, and several owners and employees of Acclivity West.
Continue Reading New Complaint – Sedlar-Sholty, et al. v. Acclivity West, LLC, et al.

Ballard v. NTB Financial Corporation was filed in the Arapahoe County District Court on July 7, 2021, claiming that Defendants conspired with Financial Visions, Inc. (“FV”) and its principal, Dan Rudden (“Rudden”), to induce investors into purchasing unregistered securities in violation of antifraud provisions of the Colorado Securities Act.

Plaintiffs are individuals and a business entity who invested in promissory notes sold by FV and Rudden. Defendants are NTB Financial Corporation (“NTB”), an investment firm based in Denver, Colorado, and George Louis McCaffrey III, a registered representative employed by NTB that is alleged to have advised certain clients to invest in the unregistered promissory notes.


Continue Reading New Complaint – Ballard v. NTB Financial Corporation

Morrison, et al. v. Rockwell, et al. was filed in California Superior Court, Marin County, on May 28, 2021. The complaint seeks civil damages for claims of breach of fiduciary duty, multiple violations of the California Corporations Code, constructive fraud, breach of contract, and negligence.

Plaintiffs are a group of investors who used Defendants as investment advisors.  Defendants are a series of corporate entities, Dow Rockwell, LLC, Rockwell Retirement Partners, and Marin Wealth Management, LLC, an individual investment advisor, Rick Rockwell, and many unnamed defendants Plaintiffs believe may have been involved in aiding Defendants.


Continue Reading New Complaint – Morrison v. Rockwell

The collapse of a Ponzi scheme usually follows a familiar pattern.  When the scheme is exposed, the company created by the schemer—which is usually little more than a sham entity—is placed into receivership or declares bankruptcy (or both).  A receiver or bankruptcy trustee is then tasked with recovering any funds belonging to the estate so that they may be distributed to creditors.  As part of this process, these court-appointed parties step into the shoes of the company and may bring any litigation that the company itself could have brought.  Bankruptcy trustees are also granted the exclusive right to bring “general claims” on behalf of the entities’ creditors.

This process creates a thorny question: who may seek recovery from a third party alleged to have been involved in the fraud?  Creditors that lent funds to sham companies often pursue claims against financial institutions that banked the schemers on aiding-and-abetting theories.  Yet receivers and trustees also often bring these claims, leading to duplicative litigation and the question of who properly “owns” the claim.

A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota provides important guidance on this question.  Ritchie v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., No. 14-cv-04786, 2021 WL 2686079 (D. Minn. June 30, 2021) untangles who has standing to bring claims against a third party alleged to have aided and abetted a Ponzi scheme.  As the Court explains, “general” claims for loss of funds belong exclusively to court-appointed bankruptcy trustees.  Third parties may only bring particularized claims that arise from injuries “directly traceable” to the defendant’s conduct.  Ritchie thus serves as a touchstone in disputes over standing in Ponzi litigation.


Continue Reading Minnesota Court Untangles Who Owns What Claim in the Fallout of a Ponzi Scheme