The Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a court order authorizing that more than $63 million be returned to investors who had been the victims of an alleged real estate investment scam run by New York real estate developer Robert C. Morgan and his Morgan Mezzanine Fund Manager and Morgan Acquisitions entities, the SEC said Thursday.
The amount represented the full return of funds to those who had invested in the fraudulent scheme, the SEC noted. The defendants didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The SEC had filed a complaint against Morgan and his firms May 22, 2019, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, claiming the defendants engaged in a fraudulent real estate investment scheme. As alleged, Morgan financed his real estate development projects via, among other ways, the sales of securities to more than 200 retail investors, many of whom invested through their retirement accounts, the SEC said.
Morgan told investors their money would be used to improve multifamily properties, according to the SEC. Instead, Morgan and his entities diverted investor funds to facilitate payments to earlier investors and made misrepresentations to later investors about prior fund performance, the SEC said.
The defendants “operated in a Ponzi scheme-like manner by using investor funds to make interest and principal redemption payments back to prior investors, and to cover up other mortgage fraud-related conduct,” according to the suit.
Upon filing the action, the SEC sought and obtained emergency relief, including the appointment of a receiver responsible for maximizing the monetary recovery for investors, it noted.
Since filing the suit, Morgan voluntarily liquidated certain assets to generate funds for collection by the receiver, the SEC said.
The court on Tuesday approved the receiver’s plan to distribute over $63 million to harmed investors, the SEC said.
“Getting money back to defrauded investors is one of our top priorities at the SEC,” according to Daniel Michael, chief of the SEC’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit. “Although this case is ongoing, the return of funds to investors is an extremely important development and the product of considerable effort by the parties and the receiver,” he said in a statement.
The SEC is continuing its investigation, which is being supervised by Osman Nawaz and conducted by Joshua Brodsky and Daniel Nigro of the Complex Financial Instruments Unit, as well as Lee A. Greenwood and Kerri L. Palen of the New York Regional Office, the SEC said.