Last week the SEC settled a securities fraud case with one Ziad K. Abdelnour, CEO of Blackhawk Partners, for a $25,000 fine and a five-year ban from the securities industry. The fraud was not exactly hard to recognize: anyone who, while claiming to represent “a purported private equity ‘family office,’ solicited investors to invest in trading programs that purportedly yielded returns of up to 600% in as little as seven days, with no risk,” is overcompensating. (For: fraud.)
But Abdelnour’s fraud was even more obvious; he basically said right on his website – under the bold heading “WARNING ON SCAMS” – that what he was selling was a scam. As the SEC puts it, his “website also discouraged prospective investors from heeding Commission and FBI warnings about private placement programs, stating:”1
WARNING ON SCAMS
It is very common to find on the internet so many web-sites, or message boards/links to so-called official documents, or reports of the “Financial Authorities” warning the public that this business ‘does not exist’ and any of these offers are always scams. The reports in question could have been written by the SEC, FBI, ICC or any of the regulatory authorities. . . . You should all understand that most people that work at banks, securities houses, accountant firms, etc., have no insight into this kind of trading, and they are very eager to listen and comply with everything by the authorities. So if SEC, FBI and others say that this is all a scam, then they believe so.
For all you nay-Sayers and disbelievers out there who are looking for evidence that this kind of trading exist[s]; try to learn and understand monetary history and banking and you will understand that this can, in fact, work- in theory. You don’t have to run around and try to find evidence, because unless you have USD10M to test it for yourself, then you need to rely upon others who are vouching. So we suggest that you find out the truth yourself, without listening to what others are saying.
Who are you going to believe: an SEC/FBI fraud warning, or some guy asking you to trust him with $10 million? The choice is clear. Read more »
It’s hard to resist Pam’s cogent economic analysis. It’s also hard to resist an “exciting online free global marketplace.” Called FrogAds.com, no less! Sounds legitimate. Read more »
Are you a person who “likes to drink beer, drive fast cars, and get into more trouble than [you] should”? Do you have your eye on a Hummer, a lap dance and a six-pack but are running a little short on cash? Do you have a great idea to pitch people on a bunch of (fake) investments that include hedge funds, a fixed-income trading plan and movie distribution investment contracts but are worried that what with the lack of a prestigious university on your resume and your professional contacts only coming from your job as a telephone solicitor for a long-distance provider, people won’t take you seriously, to say nothing of your goatee? Not to worry! Take a page from Christopher Love Blackwell’s playabook and you could be looking at least $4 million for your beer fund. Read more »
Vitaly Borker was born in Russian and moved to the United States with his family as a small child. After graduating from college, he held a smattering of jobs, none of which he was particularly passionate about. After a stint in law enforcement, he “gravitated to Wall Street” and held down gigs at “a variety of firms,” including Lehman Brothers. But working back office the pay wasn’t great and he decided to supplement his income by running the online component of a friend’s eyeglass store. He got sued a few times for hocking counterfeits but it was no sweat of Borker’s sack– his internet business did just fine and he was able to maintain the site while working on Wall Street “for years” and in fact expanded his online venture to include several destination for peddling his wares, the flagship being DecorMyEyes. Unfortunately his successful side job soon left little time for Lehman Brothers and several months before the firm went under, Borker quit to focus solely on his burgeoning pet project (obviously setting LEH up for a fall, given that he was holding that place up like Atlas).
This weekend Borker’s business was the subject of a Times profile. He says he’s “fantastically profitable,” and the secret to his success? Threatening to put his boot up customers’ asses, which, following their vocal complaints, helps makes his online storefront a popular Google result. Here’s a glimpse into the process (Borker, when interfacing with customers, uses the name Tony Russo):
* When a woman complained about having placed an order only to be told they were out of her brand of choice:
Russo called to say that DecorMyEyes had run out of the Ciba Visions. Pick another brand, he advised a little brusquely. “I told him that I didn’t want another brand,” recalls Ms. Rodriguez, who lives in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. “And I asked for a refund. He got rude, really obnoxious. ‘What’s the big deal? Choose another brand!’ ”
* When she received a pair of frames that were clearly counterfeits, that she was overcharged $125 for, which she told Russo she would be disputing with her credit card company:
Until that moment, Mr. Russo was merely ornery. Now he erupted. “Listen, bitch,” he fumed, according to Ms. Rodriguez. “I know your address. I’m one bridge over” — a reference, it turned out, to the company’s office in Brooklyn. Then, she said, he threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper.
Read more »
Head trader and Wharton grad
In its unending quest to prove something, for the second time today the SEC has ruined a good thing. First, it was a firm trying to raise money to get its sex-themed cruises off the ground. Now, it’s Gryhpon Financial, whose management team faces securities and wire fraud. The individuals possibly going away for up to twenty years each include Kenneth Marsh, 43, Baldwin Anderson, 55, Robert Anthony Budion, 28, Jeanne Lada, 44 and James T. Levier, 34. Those names won’t mean anything to the investors who got taken for a ride for more than $17.5 million, because the firm used fake names, claiming it was run by president “Michael Warren” and vice-president “Kenneth Maseka” (the latter fictional character’s pedigree included degrees from Harvard, Oxford, Columbia and Wharton and job with Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs). Other (awesome) facts about the firm that turned out to be untrue included:
* An office building “in the heart of the financial world at 110 Wall St., 11th Floor.” The actual office can be found at 3767 Victory Blvd., next to a martial arts school and a bakery.
* Props from George Soros, who is quoted as saying: “Alone, the Gryphon Financial are incredible, together they are unstoppable.” Read more »
Reason number one that Steven Mandala not only helped himself to $780,000 from the firm, but lied to get the job in the first place: he’d obviously tasked himself with testing MER’s due diligence and background checks on prospective employees, which he rightly assumed were not up to snuff:
Mandala, who earned about $100,000 annually at Maxim, last year applied for a job at Merrill Lynch, falsely claiming he was a partner at Maxim, that he managed $300 million in client assets and earned $765,000 in compensation against $1.5 million in revenue he generated, the Manhattan DA’s Office said. After Mandala produced fake pay stubs and tax forms to substantiate his bogus claims about his Maxim work, Merrill hired him on April 24, the DA said.
Over the next few months, after Mandala had his new boss loan him the 780 grand as “an incentive,” deposited the money into his parents’ bank account, and withdrew $245,589 to buy a red Ferrari, Mandala “frequently” failed to show up to work and only brought in two or three clients, which was undoubtedly part of his undercover work to see if management was keeping tabs on people. Determining he’d seen enough, SM the “resigned via e-mail” and “asked Merrill Lynch to throw out his personal effects,” so he could focus on other projects, like scamming his woman’s father, which required a bit more attention than taking ML for a ride.
Among [his personal affects] were credit cards obtained in the name of Carlos Gomes — the dad of Mandala’s girlfriend — which the broker had allegedly used to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Mandala’s lawyer, Franklin Rothman, said Gomes’ ID had been stolen by his daughter, “who had a bone to pick with her own father.”
The Church of Federal Reservology today proclaimed all but one of the country’s biggest banks clear of all the engrams caused by the late economic crisis.
It took $77 billion–slightly more than the $74.6 billion the Church predicted–worth of auditing sessions, but nine of the 10 biggest banks waylaid in the subway by Church volunteers for complimentary stress tests, and can now begin working towards Operating Thetan status.
The nine are now ready to handle anything (beneath a 10.3% unemployment rate next year*) with a properly analytic mind.
Read more »
The long hours, the fake returns– it all ate away at him pretty badly. Mostly it was the constant fear that today would be the day the rètards at the Securities and Exchange Commission would slip and fall on the boxes of files marked “This Shit Ain’t Legit” scattered pretty much all over the office or that someone, anyone, would ask a brain buster that would lead them to the conclusion that the whole thing was a scam, rather than asking Bernie for recommendations on his favorite place get wings (Hooters).
Despite what Mr. Madoff described as the chronic ineptitude of the S.E.C., he said in the interview that he was “worried every time” examiners showed up.
“That was the nightmare I lived with,” he said, and he told Mr. Kotz he had wanted it to end. “I wish they caught me six years ago, eight years ago.”
Lapses Helped Scheme, Madoff Told Investigators [NYT]
Earlier: Bernie Madoff Screwing SEC, Anyone That Tickles His Fancy, From Inside The Joint
So, I guess it’s entirely possible that Danny Pang, the subject of an insanely long profile in today’s Wall Street Journal is a stand-up individual running a completely legit private equity business. Perhaps, what with all the Madoffs and the Stanfords popping up of late, the whole thing is actually an elaborate cooperative attempt between the Private Equity Management Group founder and writer Mark Maremont to provide a service guide to the investing community. Like, on shit to not do if you’re trying to avoid having your name in the press in conjunction with “massive scam.” Stuff like:
- Straight up telling the president of your firm, the PEMGroup, that “part of the enterprise is involved in a Ponzi scheme.”
- Being married to a woman who is mysteriously murdered in such a fashion that people think you paid a guy to show up at your house and shoot her.
- Putting Morgan Stanley on your resume (you were a “senior vice president and senior high-tech merger adviser”) and then not taking the extra precaution to blackmail John Mack into corroborating the story.
- Telling people you received a number of degrees from the University of California, Irvine, but then not being able to produce proof of said degrees, and not making sure to get the school on the horn before they tell the Wall Street Journal the only person named Danny Pang on their records was enrolled for just a semester.
- Stealing $3 million from an escrow account while working at a venture capital firm called Sky Capital Partners in the mid-90s, and, when confronted by your boss, shrugging and telling him, you “just needed the money.”
- Making partners in the PEMGroup like, say, Hiep Trinh, suspicious by offering “improbable claims” about your wealth and lying to outside investors about how the two of you go way back to college, without clearing the story with him first
- Being on the phone all day making bets with bookies
- Allowing “tough-looking men” to drop by the office during business hours “all the time”
- Entertaining prosties on the company dime
- Taking $15 million in investor funds and buying yourself a Gulfstream IV
- Flying a bunch of girls from work to Vegas, and on the return flight, not sufficiently drugging up onlookers so that they wouldn’t be able to give an eye-witness account that you: “had a briefcase stuffed with cash and…started throwing money to the girls, stacks of $10,000. I thought it wasn’t right to treat the girls from the office that way, like we were pimps and gamblers.” And taking pics!
Read more »