The Securities and Exchange Commission charged the founder of a fintech startup with a scheme to defraud investors and misappropriate funds for his own use.
The SEC charged Michael Liberty, the founder of the fintech startup now known as Mozido Inc., with tricking hundreds of investors into believing that they were funding fast-growing startup companies.
However, they were not.
According to the SEC, Liberty and his accomplices lied to those investors about the financial prospects of the startups, the use of their investment dollars, Liberty’s involvement with the startups, and the nature of the investments offered.
Through their scheme, Liberty and his accomplices raised more than $55 million from hundreds of investors, misappropriating most of it to fund Liberty’s lifestyle, including chartered flights, a dairy farm and the funding of a movie production, according to the SEC’s complaint.
“As alleged in our complaint, these investments were sold as a chance to get in early with a seemingly promising fintech company,” said Paul Levenson, director of the SEC’s Boston regional office, said in a statement. “The prospect of investing in a nonpublic startup company may hold considerable allure, but buyers need to understand what they are buying. Unscrupulous operators make it difficult for ordinary investors to assess such ‘investment opportunities.’”
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Liberty, along with Brittany Liberty, who is now his wife; his attorney George Marcus; his cousin Richard Liberty; and his cousin’s friend Paul Hess induced investors to purchase unregistered interests in shell companies controlled by Michael Liberty that supposedly owned transferable interests in Mozido.
In reality, the shell companies either did not own or were not permitted to transfer interests in the company. The SEC also alleges that Michael Liberty and his accomplices lied to investors about Mozido’s valuation and finances, the amount Michael Liberty had personally invested in Mozido, and the use of their funds.
According to the complaint, Michael Liberty and his accomplices later orchestrated a series of transactions in which they used investors’ own money to heavily dilute their interests and duped investors into trading securities for those worth more than 90% less.
The SEC’s complaint charges the defendants with violating the antifraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws.
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