Securities and Exchange Commission v. Minuskin, et al. was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California on April 8, 2022, claiming violations of several provisions of the Securities Act and Securities Exchange Act. Specifically, the SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief against all Defendants to prevent future violations of the federal securities laws, disgorgement of any ill-gotten gains, and civil penalties.

The SEC brought this action against Julie Minuskin (“Minuskin”), Dennis DiRicco (“DiRicco”), Thomas Casey (“Casey”), Golden Genesis, Inc. (“Golden Genesis”), and Joshua Stoll (“Stoll”) (collectively “Defendants”).  According to the complaint, Defendant Minuskin created Retire Happy LLC (“Retire Happy”), a Nevada limited liability company, which specialized in self-directed IRAs and provided financial education on how to leverage retirement accounts and create passive income by promoting self-directed retirement accounts. Defendant DiRicco was the Chief Financial Officer and board member of Defendant Golden Genesis and the managing member of non-party Until Tomorrow LLC (“Until Tomorrow”). Defendant Casey is the majority owner, Chief Executive Officer, and board member of Defendant Golden Genesis. Defendant Stoll was an account specialist at Retire Happy.

Continue Reading New Complaint – SEC v. Minuskin, et al.

Oregon JV LLC v. Advanced Investment et al. was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon on March 2, 2022. Plaintiff asserts claims sounding in fraud and requests compensatory and equitable relief against a construction lender and other individuals and entities that funded various loans to a homebuilder with a history of fraud and embezzlement.

Plaintiff is a company that managed a construction loan pool for non-party Joseph Russi.  Defendant Advanced Investment Corp (“AIC”) is an Oregon-based corporation that previously managed the loan pool at issue. The remaining Defendants consist of trustees of various trusts, Oregon-based financial institutions, and several Oregon residents, all of which were investors in the subject loan pool (the “Defendant Lenders”).

Continue Reading New Complaint – Oregon JV LLC v. Advanced Investment et al.

Chan v. Anthony, et al. was filed in the District Court for Denver County, Colorado on March 1, 2022, asserting claims under the Colorado Securities Act for securities fraud, investment advisor fraud, unlicensed broker/dealer activity, unlicensed investment adviser activity, and unregistered securities.

Tung Chan (“Chan”), Colorado’s Securities Commissioner, brought this action against Defendant David Anthony (“Anthony”) and nine unlicensed investment companies that he owned and operated (collectively with Anthony, the “Defendants”).  Chan also included Anthony’s wife as a relief defendant to claw back funds from the scheme used for the Anthonys’ personal expenses.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Chan v. Anthony, et al.

Aarus Enterprises LLC v. Burgerim Group USA, Inc. was filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles on February 15, 2022, seeking civil damages from a fraudulent investment scheme involving the purchase and sale of fast-food burger franchises. Specifically, the complaint alleges promissory fraud, intentional misrepresentation, and concealment.

Plaintiffs include over fifteen individuals and entities who invested in the burger franchises. The Defendants are the burger franchise Burgerim Group USA, Inc. (“Burgerim”) and unnamed individuals who participated in the scheme.

Plaintiffs contend they were presented the chance to invest in Burgerim, which represented itself as the fastest growing fast-food burger franchise.  Burgerim told investors they could purchase a franchise for $50,000, a portion of which could be financed or paid later.  Burgerim also offered to assist with real estate transactions in opening the franchise restaurants.  But Burgerim did not deliver on those promises.  Instead, it gave investors unrealistic financing options and unworkable estimates for construction timelines and costs.  Burgerim also hid from investors that it used new franchisees’ fees to repay existing franchisees and received kickbacks from vendors, real estate agents, and other representatives.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Aarus Enterprises LLC v. Burgerim Group USA, Inc.

Tu Le et al. v. Prestige Community Credit Union, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on February 18, 2022, is the second putative class action filed in connection with a church-based investment scheme propped up by Ponzi-type payments, this time targeting the bank that housed the schemers’ accounts.

Plaintiffs Tu Le, Geneva Nguyen, and Mai T. Ly are individuals who invested in a scheme run by entities related to a now-defunct church and its pastor, convicted felon Kent R.E. Whitney (the “Whitney Schemers”).  The scheme targeted individuals by misrepresenting that their funds would be used to open investment accounts earning over 10% interest, but very little of investor funds actually went into trading accounts. Defendant Prestige Community Credit Union (“Prestige”) is the credit union purportedly used by the Whitney Schemers.  Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of all individuals who invested and lost money with any of the Whitney Schemers, as well as a sub-class of all such class members who were residents of California and over 65 years old at the time of investment.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Tu Le et al. v. Prestige Community Credit Union

Bui v. Nguyen was filed in California Superior Court on December 30, 2021, claiming relief for civil damages. Specifically, the complaint alleges claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, promissory fraud, constructive fraud, fraudulent concealment, and conversion.

Plaintiffs are three individuals who invested funds with Defendants The Church for the Healthy Self a/k/a CHS Trust (“Defendant Church”), its pastor Kent Whitney (“Whitney”), other individuals touting the alleged scheme, and various television stations.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Bui v. Nguyen, et al.

yLoft, LLC v. Bechtler, Parker & Watts, P.S.C. was filed in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County, Kentucky on January 18, 2022, asserting claims for negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, violation of state securities laws, and unjust enrichment against an accounting firm alleged to have facilitated the sale of unregistered securities.

Plaintiffs are individuals and institutional investors that invested in promissory notes sold by non-parties ACS Payment Solutions, LTD Co. d/b/a ACS Payment Solutions, LLC and ACS Payment Solutions II Incorporated (collectively, “ACS”).  Defendant Bechtler, Parker & Watts, P.S.C. (“BPW”) is an accounting firm owned by Defendant Christopher J. Bechtler (“Bechtler”) that performed accounting services for ACS and Plaintiffs.  Defendants are alleged to have engaged in a scheme with ACS to solicit and defraud outside investors, including Plaintiffs.

Continue Reading New Complaint – yLoft LLC v. Bechtler, Parker, Watts, P.S.C.

Andersen, et al. v. Gigapix Studios, Inc. was filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento on January 13, 2022 seeking civil damages for claims of fraud and misrepresentation.

Plaintiffs are a group of individuals who invested in Defendant Gigapix Studios, Inc. (“Gigapix”).  Gigapix is an animation company that solicited investors by advertising that it would generate large profits from prospective projects.

Plaintiffs allege that Gigapix was founded by Christopher Blauvelt and led by David Pritchard, who purchased investor lead lists and hired telemarketers to solicit potential investors.  Investors were told that Gigapix was an animation company on the verge of an initial public offering or reverse merger with a public company that would net high returns for investors.  In reality, however, Plaintiffs allege that Gigapix was a Ponzi scheme that materially misrepresented the funds that would be spent on producing shows and movies, the anticipated timing of returns on investment, the level of risk involved, and the success of prior Gigapix projects.

Continue Reading New Complaint – Andersen, et al. v. Gigapix Studios, Inc.

Schwartz v. McGregor was filed in the District Court of Denver County, Colorado on January 10, 2022, seeking relief under Colorado’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, C.R.S. § 38-8-101-112 (“CUFTA”), including a turnover and accounting and damages for actual and constructive fraud.

Plaintiff Gary Schwartz is a court-appointed Receiver (“Receiver”) on behalf of a multi-million-dollar fraudulent investment scheme perpetrated by Mark Ray (“Ray”).  The Receiver was appointed over Mark Ray, Custom Consulting & Product Services, LLC, MR Cattle Production Services, LLC, Universal Herbs, LLC, DBC Limited, LLC, RM Farm & Livestock, LLC, Sunshine Enterprises (the “Estate entities”). Defendant Eric McGregor (“Defendant”) was an investor in the Ponzi scheme who allegedly received numerous avoidable transfers from the Estate entities.

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Backed by unrealistically ambitious owners, well-intentioned business ideas that fail to meet expectations or become unsustainable regrettably often become full-fledged Ponzi schemes.  Today’s Growth Consultant, Inc. (“TGC”) represents an entity that faced the same fate.

TGC advertised to potential investors its expertise in building, acquiring, and monetizing online websites.  Investors paid an upfront fee to TGC to purchase, host, maintain, and market the investors’ websites in exchange for TGC’s guarantee that investors would receive a minimum rate of return in perpetuity on the revenues TGC generated from those websites.  TGC raised at least $75 million during a nearly three year period, but its business model proved unsuccessful—it failed to timely purchase and build the promised websites or generate the promised revenue to cover the guaranteed returns to investors.  Instead, TGC turned into a Ponzi scheme to sustain its failing business by paying early investors with money it raised from later investors.

TGC maintained its business bank accounts at Defendants Heartland Bank and Trust Company (“Heartland”) and PNC Bank, N.A. (“PNC”) (collectively, “Defendants”).  TGC banked with Heartland until October 2018, and with PNC thereafter until December 2019.  Defendants provided TGC with typical banking services, including deposit accounts, commercial loans and revolving lines of credit, ACH capabilities, and transfers into, out of, and among TGC’s accounts.

In a recent decision in PLB Investments LLC et al. v. Heartland Bank and Trust Co. et al., the Northern District of Illinois decided that various defrauded investors of TGC (“Plaintiffs”) did not set forth sufficient allegations to show actual knowledge of a Ponzi scheme or bad faith in support of various Illinois state law claims against PNC.  No. 20 C 1023, 2021 WL 5937152 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 15, 2021).  While different jurisdictions set varying thresholds for adequately alleging actual knowledge or bad faith, PLB Investments emphasizes the importance of analyzing these elements early on to determine whether a plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts on the pleadings.

Continue Reading Illinois Federal Court Carves Up Plaintiffs’ Ponzi Scheme Claims For Lack of Actual Knowledge or Bad Faith