Call them the mini-Madoffs: Investment advisers accused of conducting Ponzi scams that echo the one allegedly pulled off by the disgraced Wall Street money manager.
In recent weeks, both the Wall Street Journal
(sub. req.) and the New York Times
report, a spate of mini-Madoffs has come to light
The Journal looked at SEC records and found an increase in cases in which the agency alleged Ponzi schemes. Last year, it brought at least 23 Ponzi cases, up from 15 in 2007. This year, it has already filed four. The paper explains why:
More schemes are emerging now, experts say, in part because of the economic downturn. Tough times have prompted people to seek to cash in their investments, only to find out their money is missing. New investment also dries up in slumps, making it harder for fraudulent funds to replenish their coffers and make the payments needed to keep their operations going.
Let's go down the list of the mini-Madoffs to emerge recently:
- Arthur Nadel, the missing Florida hedge-fund adviser, was arrested yesterday, accused by the feds of defrauding clients to the tune of millions of dollars.
- Nicholas Cosmo, a Long Island money manager, raised more than $370 million, promising eye-popping returns of 48 percent by funding commercial loans. But he lent little money and only about $746,000 remains, according to an affidavit. Cosmo surrendered to authorities Monday.
- Joseph S. Forte, an investment manager in Phildelphia, was accused by the SEC earlier this month of running a Ponzi scheme since at least 1995, claiming returns as high as 38 percent and raising $50 million.
- Darren Palmer, an Idaho Falls money manager, is being probed by state authorities, with investors claiming they lost up to $100 million in a Ponzi scheme.
- Marcus Schrenker, an Indiana financial adviser, was arrested in Florida earlier this month after apparently trying to stage his own death in a plane crash. He faces charges, in both states, of swindling investors.
- Rod Cameron Stringer of Texas is alleged by the SEC to have set up a Ponzi scheme that lured elderly investors, claiming annual returns of 61 percent.
- Robert C. Brown of California is accused by the SEC of using millions in clients' money "to pay for lavish personal expenses, such as upkeep on his Ferrari, limousine services and shopping trips."
- Anthony James of Florida set up a "classic Ponzo scheme", says the SEC, through which he got access to at least $2.4 million in client funds, which he used to pay for a six-bedroom home, a Porsche and season tickets to the Miami Heat.
There are more.
Sounds like the SEC's plans
to beef up their enforcement unit can't happen quickly enough.