The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday charged two former directors of investments at the Woodbridge Group of Cos. LLC, a developer of celebrity real estate, with fraud for their roles in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.
The defendants, California-based Ivan Acevedo and Dane R. Roseman, were separately arrested and charged by criminal authorities, along with Woodbridge owner Robert H. Shapiro.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Shapiro operated Woodbridge as a massive Ponzi scheme, which, from July 2012 through December 2017, raised at least $1.22 billion from more than 8,400 unsuspecting investors nationwide through fraudulent unregistered securities offerings.
Many of the investors were seniors, and together Acevedo and Roseman received more than $3 million in transaction-based and other compensation.
Schapiro along with Acevedo and Roseman were arrested on Thursday, accused of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and other violations of federal law in an indictment unsealed in the Southern District of Florida.
According to the Los Angeles Times, one property that was known to be among Woodbridge’s holdings is the historic Owlwood estate in Holmby Hills, a former home of actor Tony Curtis and singing duo Sonny and Cher.
In a statement to the paper, Shapiro’s attorney, Ryan O’Quinn, said Shapiro “denies the allegations in the indictment and will vigorously defend himself in the appropriate forum.”
The SEC previously charged Woodbridge and Shapiro, and Woodbridge’s highest-earning unregistered brokers. In January, a federal court in Florida ordered Woodbridge, related companies, and Shapiro together to pay $1 billion for operating this Ponzi scheme.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that Acevedo oversaw Woodbridge’s fundraising from 2012 until his departure in 2015, when he was succeeded by Roseman.
The defendants “were responsible for hiring and training Woodbridge’s sales force, approved fraudulent marketing materials and sales scripts, and helped create the false appearance that Woodbridge was a legitimate operation when in reality it was a Ponzi scheme that used money from new investors to pay existing investors,” the SEC complaint states.
The SEC’s complaint charges Acevedo and Roseman with violating the securities registration, broker-dealer registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and seeks disgorgement of allegedly ill-gotten gains, with interest, and financial penalties.