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SEC Sues Florida Men For Operating Ponzi Scheme That Defrauded Teachers and Retirees

On Aug. 29, 2011, the SEC charged two Florida men for running a Ponzi scheme set up as an alleged private equity fund that fraudulently raised over $22 million from more than 100 investors, including many Florida teachers or retirees.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that James Davis Risher of Sanibel handled the fund’s trading operations, and Daniel Joseph Sebastian of Lakeland marketed the fund, including distributing offering materials and soliciting investors. Risher falsely informed investors that he had years of experience in trading equities and providing wealth and asset management services. Instead, Risher had no such experience but rather a vast criminal history, spending 11 of the last 21 years in prison.

The SEC claims that Risher and Sebastian falsely told investors that the “fund” generated annual returns between 14% and 124% percent by purchasing public equity securities. They sent investors fabricated account statements showing these inflated returns to support their misrepresentations. Indeed, only a small portion of the raised capital was actually invested, as Risher instead spent investor funds on personal, lavish gifts, such as jewelry, and property in North Carolina and Florida. Moreover, Risher and Sebastian also paid themselves millions of dollars in fake management and performance fees.

Based on the SEC’s complaint, Risher and Sebastian solicited the “fund” using the names Safe Harbor Private Equity Fund, Managed Capital Fund, and Preservation of Principal Fund. They described themselves in offering documents as “two unique individuals” who had the necessary expertise to “create an investment vehicle that would allow investors to capitalize from both bull and bear markets.”

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