Allegations of trolling a millionaire dating site to defraud wealthy women has landed a venture capital company and its officers and directors in the center of a lawsuit alleging securities fraud in California.
The firm of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP filed suit Tuesday in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego alleging the principals of a venture capital operation, VentureMoney Management Co., defrauded a woman of $600,000 on the dating website MillionaireMatch.com. The firm seeks the return of her money, interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.
VentureMoney Management, a Delaware incorporated organization, has a registered Form D with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The lawsuit alleges 12 violations, including securities fraud, sale of unregistered securities, operating as unlicensed broker and as an unlicensed investment advisor and aiding and abetting a fraud.
Mark Bernier of VentureMoney Management, the complaint states, “trolls dating websites for vulnerable, high-net-worth women as part of his investment scams.”
The complaint alleges that Bernier “advertises himself as a licensed investment professional, targets wealthy women, attempts to build trust and confidence, and then aggressively seeks to separate the women from their money through purported ‘investments.’”
In implementing this fraudulent scheme, the complaint states, “Bernier directly violates state securities laws. In the past two years, Bernier has exchanged over 29,000 messages with over 3,000 women through the dating website MillionaireMatch.com, in an effort to sell them worthless securities.”
The plaintiff, Marieme Bouguerba, had filed individually against VentureMoney Management CEO Mark Bernier, who allegedly targeted her and her money on the dating website with a solicitation to invest her money in a fraudulent scheme. Bernier presented himself on the dating site as a licensed investment professional to gain the trust of the woman in order to make a sale. All the while he would “falsely” promise to return her money, according to the complaint.