Scam Tied to JOBS Act on SEC’s Radar, Agency Warns
The SEC has announced fraud charges against a Washington state company that it says is misleading investors with claims to raise billions of investment capital under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act.
According to the SEC, Daniel F. Peterson and his company USA Real Estate Fund 1 allegedly promised investors that they could reap spectacular returns from an upcoming offering in a secured product backed by prominent financial firms.
Peterson sold common stock in USA Real Estate Fund from November 2010 to June 2012 to more than 20 investors in Washington and at least five other states, according to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Spokane, Wash.
In emails and periodic e-newsletters that he used to solicit USA Real Estate Fund investors, Peterson said that he was preparing to raise billions of dollars in a second offering of additional preferred securities, which he claimed would be secured and have 10-year returns of up to 1,300%.
Peterson claimed that two prominent Wall Street financial firms had partnered with him to bring his offering to market, and that the firms had conducted due diligence on USA Real Estate Fund and were structuring sales agreements and pricing, the SEC said.
Peterson promised the early investors they would profit massively once the purported future offering was under way.
However, Peterson’s claims were false, according to the SEC. He had no guaranteed investment product to offer, the projected returns were either fictitious or based on implausible and unsupported analyses, and he has no affiliation with any financial firm to underwrite his purported future offering, the SEC alleged.
Peterson used investor money to pay for his rent, food, entertainment, vacations, and a rented Mercedes Benz SUV, the SEC said. He also used investor funds on clothing for friends, luggage for his wife, and expenses at a Las Vegas casino.
“We’ve brought this court action to stop Peterson’s fraud in its tracks before it picks up more steam,” said Michael Dicke, associate director in the SEC’s San Francisco regional office. “The JOBS Act is intended to help small businesses raise capital, not to legalize fraud or give unscrupulous entrepreneurs a right to make false claims to fleece investors.”
Signed into law on April 5, 2012, by President Obama, the JOBS Act was designed to encourage funding of U.S. small businesses by easing various securities regulations,
The SEC’s complaint charges USA Real Estate Fund and Peterson with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The agency is seeking a court order requiring both to return their alleged ill-gotten gains, with interest, and pay financial penalties, the SEC said.
The agency is also seeking a preliminary injunction restraining USA Real Estate Fund and Peterson from engaging in conduct that would allow them to continue their operation and restraining them from further violations of the securities laws.