Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Outpacing even Texas


Federal and state authorities are reporting a growing number of financial scams that echo the alleged Madoff fraud, as strapped investors seek access to their cash amid increasingly hard times.

At least six suspected multimillion-dollar fraud cases have emerged this month alone, many of them alleged Ponzi schemes, in which investors are lured by promises of lofty returns but are actually paid off from new victims' funds.

On Tuesday, authorities arrested Arthur Nadel, the missing Florida hedge-fund adviser...

Todd Foster, a lawyer for Mr. Nadel, says his client voluntarily surrendered to the authorities and is cooperating with them. He says "we aren't in a position to comment on the criminal charges now," adding that investment "losses don't necessarily equate with fraud."

{ed.'s note: nor do kind intentions with innocence}

In the latest case to emerge, Nicholas Cosmo, a Long Island, N.Y., investment-firm owner, surrendered to federal authorities Monday. Mr. Cosmo allegedly raised more than $370 million between 2006 and 2008 by promising investors 48% annual returns from funding commercial loans, according to a federal affidavit in support of his arrest.

Three weeks ago, the SEC accused a Philadelphia-area investment fund manager, Joseph S. Forte, with running a Ponzi scheme since at least 1995 that claimed returns as high as 38% and raised $50 million. Mr. Forte didn't return phone calls made late in the day.

Meanwhile, Idaho's securities regulators are investigating allegations by investors in Idaho Falls that they lost up to $100 million in an alleged Ponzi scheme by Daren Palmer, a local money manager. No charges have been filed. Mr. Palmer didn't return phone calls made late in the day.

There was also the case of Marcus Schrenker, an Indiana financial adviser who was arrested in Florida earlier this month after allegedly trying to stage his death in a plane crash as investigators probed his businesses.

The Ponzi scams alleged by the SEC sprung up all around the country: in Texas, where participants, many of them elderly, invested $45 million in a phony hedge fund that supposedly produced annual returns as high as 61%; in a currency-trading scheme in Georgia which promised returns of 10% a month; in Florida, where two companies raised $30 million by allegedly convincing investors they would earn money by exporting gadgets like Apple iPods to South America. The SEC alleges that the companies purchased few electronics and used "newly invested funds to make principal and interest payments to existing investors."

The SEC has accused South Florida investment adviser Anthony A. James of misappropriating at least $2.4 million in client funds to buy a six-bedroom home, a Porsche and season tickets to the Miami Heat basketball team.

No comments: