1300 W. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007-2996
PHOENIX--The Arizona Corporation Commission announced today that it has joined the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and 29 other states in filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging Metals.com and Barrick Capital Inc. defendants solicited $185 million from seniors and other vulnerable investors nationwide by touting precious metals at grossly inflated prices that were not disclosed.
“The defendants had a reckless disregard for the truth by failing to disclose that virtually every investor lost the majority of their funds in the investments the firm was peddling,” Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Burns said. “Investors, most of whom where seniors, suffered substantial losses from retirement savings by relying on the false representations made by the defendants and their sales representatives.”
The complaint names Los Angeles, California-based companies TMTE Inc., also known as Metals.com, Chase Metals Inc., Chase Metals LLC, Barrick Capital Inc., along with Simon Batashvili, Lucas Asher, and Tower Equity LLC. The defendants are accused of using cold calling, television, radio, and social media advertisements designed to “instill fear in elderly and retirement-aged investors and build trust with investors based on representations of political or religious affinity.” Investors were advised to liquidate their holdings at registered investment firms to fund investments in precious metals bullion through self-directed individual retirement accounts and bullion coins, the complaint said.
The defendants also are accused of failing to disclose, among other things, the markup Metals.com and Barrick charged investors for their precious metals bullion products and that investors could lose the majority of their funds immediately upon completing a transaction. The defendants charged investors prices for gold or silver bullion averaging from 100% to more than 300% the melt value or spot price of that gold or silver bullion. In many cases, the market value of the precious metals sold to investors was substantially lower than the value of the securities and other retirement savings investors had liquidated to fund their purchase.
The petition requests the Court order the defendants to cease sales activity, return money to investors, and stop defrauding investors and violating federal and state laws going forward. The Court has also appointed a temporary receiver to take over the companies to marshal funds for the benefit of investors across the country.
Today’s coordinated state and federal action was a result of a multi-state collaboration by members of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the Corporation Commission is a member, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Office of Cooperative Enforcement.
Defendants are entitled to a trial to answer the charges made against them. The Corporation Commission encourages investors to come forward if they suspect they have been targeted by similar precious metals investment schemes. Please contact the Corporation Commission securities investigators at (602) 542-0662 or SecuritiesDiv@azcc.gov.
August 7, 2019
Idaho Man and his Company Sold Unregistered Promissory Notes
The Corporation Commission ordered Roland B. Woolsey of Idaho and his affiliated company, Skytrace, Inc., to pay $142,500 in restitution and $10,000 in administrative penalties for offering and selling unregistered promissory notes. Woolsey and Skytrace, Inc. were seeking to raise $10 million in order to market a web-based inventory application but are not registered to offer or sell securities in Arizona.
In settling this matter, the respondents neither admit nor deny the Commission’s findings, but agree to the entry of the consent order. All documents relating to this agenda item can be found in the Corporation Commission's online docket at https://edocket.azcc.gov and entering docket number S-21055A-18-0309.
July 11, 2019
Commission Finds Phoenix Man Defrauded Hispanic Christians with Promissory Notes
The Corporation Commission ordered Jaime A. Verdugo of Phoenix to pay $381,954 in restitution and a $20,000 administrative penalty for committing securities fraud. The Commission found Mr. Verdugo was not registered to offer or sell securities in Arizona when he solicited multiple promissory note investors, most of whom were from Hispanic Christian communities. The Commission found Jaime A. Verdugo told investors, on behalf of Verdugo Enterprises, LLC, that their money was going to purchase home decor products to fulfill online orders.However, the Commission found Mr. Verdugo mislead investors by stating their money was safe while knowing at least eight prior investors did not receive any investment returns. Also, the Commission found Jaime A. Verdugo failed to inform investors about the company’s unwritten policy to limit payouts to $6,000 every two weeks, which is contrary to the explicit terms of the promissory notes.
June 11, 2019
Commissioners sanction Laveen man for unlawful sale of securities
The Corporation Commission ordered Carlton Lamont Fox of Laveen, Arizona, and his affiliated company to pay $15,200 in restitution and a $5,000 administrative penalty for participating in the unlawful offer and sale of unregistered securities while not being registered as an Arizona securities salesman or dealer. The Commission found at least 17 investors were promised a return on their initial investment within 3-6 months, funding either the purchase of leads for prospective businesses that were interested in credit card reader terminals or for the purchase of the terminals that would be subsequently sold to interested businesses. The Commission found that Fox and his affiliated company, Fox First Services, LLC, participated in the unlawful sale of securities as an unregistered salesperson or dealer. Further, the Commission found that none of the investors received a full return of their original investment, and that Fox used some of the money to pay telemarketers for their work in soliciting investor funds. In settling this matter, respondents neither admitted nor denied the Commission findings, but agreed to the entry of the Commission's consent order.
June 11, 2019
Commissioners order more than $2 million in restitution to restore investors
Arizona resident Adam W. Child agreed to pay $2,014,592 in restitution and a $25,000 administrative penalty for selling promissory notes and LLC membership interests to investors. The Corporation Commission found that Child offered and sold notes and membership interests to at least 17 investors of Titan Funding Group I, LLC and Titan Capital Real Estate Fund I, LLC. The Commission found the investor funds were pooled to lend money to real estate developers who were to purchase and "flip" residential properties. However, the Commission found that Mr. Child violated the Securities Act's antifraud provisions when he failed to disclose to investors a previous judgment against him, that he had declared bankruptcy and that his prior mortgage-lending business had its license revoked.
In settling this matter, the respondent agreed to the entry of the consent order and admitted to the Commission's findings only for purposes of the administrative proceeding. All documents relating to this agenda item can be found in the Corporation Commission's online docket at https://edocket.azcc.gov and entering docket number S-21054A-18-0301.
May 15, 2019
Densco Investment Corporation Investors to Receive Additional Restitution
Last week, investors of DenSco Investment Corporation were awarded a second monetary distribution for losses incurred as a result of their investment in a fraudulent company. On May 10, 2018, Maricopa County Superior Court approved the receiver’s motion to provide a second distribution in the amount of $2.5 million to DenSco Investment Corporation investors. This comes on the heels of a decision by the court in December 2017 where the receiver’s first motion was approved and $4.5 million was distributed to investors.
DenSco Investment Corporation was a real estate investment firm based in Chandler, Arizona that ceased doing business in 2016. The company was obtaining loans against hundreds of properties that were never actually purchased. As a result of this fraud, action was brought against the company by the Arizona Corporation Commission for violations of the Arizona Securities Act. Due to the death of the sole owner of the corporation, a receiver was appointed by the court in 2016. A receiver is a person appointed by the court to take possession and charge of designated assets or property and to administer them in accordance with court directives.
To date, DenSco Investment Corporation investors have been awarded roughly $7 million in distributions approved by the court. The receiver continues to recover assets and claims on behalf of the receivership and believes that more funds will be available for distribution at a later date.