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.

DeCoster v. One Seven d/b/a We Are One Seven, J Wellington Financial, LLC, and Jason Jodway was filed in the Circuit Court for the County of Macomb, Michigan on January 28, 2022, seeking damages and equitable relief along with interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees for claims of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent supervision.

Plaintiffs Michelle and Lawrence DeCoster are individuals who allegedly fell victim to a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Heartland Group Ventures, LLC and its affiliates (“Heartland”).  Defendant Jason Jodway (“Jodway”) is alleged to have advised the Plaintiffs to invest in the scheme, and Defendants One Seven d/b/a We are One Seven (“One Seven”) and J Wellington Financial, LLC (“Wellington”) are purportedly liable for the actions of Jodway as their agent, though Jodway’s connection to Wellington is not clear.

Continue Reading New Complaint – DeCoster v. One Seven d/b/a We Are One Seven, LLC

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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