An Atlanta-area advisor who went missing after allegedly scamming about 100 investors as part of a Ponzi scheme involving the sale of illegal promissory notes is now facing a class-action lawsuit.
The suit was filed Wednesday against Christopher W. Burns, 37, of Berkeley Lake, Georgia, and his various business entities in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.
Matson Money, an Arizona RIA that Burns allegedly referred his clients to, was also named as a defendant in the complaint for its alleged role as a financial co-advisor with Burns. However, the firm “had absolutely no knowledge of, nor did we profit from Mr. Burns’ outrageous scam,” Mark Matson, its CEO and founder, said in a statement provided to ThinkAdvisor on Friday.
The firm was “shocked and deeply saddened” to hear that Burns had “stolen money from his clients through a fraudulent and deceitful investment scheme,” and was “outraged on behalf of the individuals and families who trusted him to act in their best interests,” Matson said.
Burns “invested a portion of his client capital into our equity and fixed income funds from 2016 to 2020 [and] we were not aware that at the same time, Mr. Burns was apparently luring his clients to invest their free cash in fraudulent promissory notes in a local peer-to-peer lending scheme,” Matson added.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced Monday that Burns was charged with mail fraud and there was a warrant for his arrest because his whereabouts were unknown.
Burns “has not been located since he left his home on September 24, 2020, one day before he was supposed to turn over documents related to his businesses” to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI said in a news release. He is also under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI said.
“We have not located him yet,” Kevin Rowson, a public affairs specialist with the FBI in Atlanta, told ThinkAdvisor on Friday. “We are getting a lot of people filing complaints against him.”
Burns conducted business through a number of entities, including Investus Advisers, Investus Financial, Dynamic Money and Peer Connect — all named as defendants in the class-action complaint, which named Susan Zimmerman as a plaintiff, along with others who become class members. Burns allegedly “defrauded a number of victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the FBI noted.
Between January 2018 and Sept. 21, 2020, Zimmerman invested a total of about $350,000 of her retirement savings into the scheme and lost her investment, according to the complaint. “In fact, just days before it was reported in the news that Burns vanished, he bilked Zimmerman out of an additional $50,000 and convinced her to invest in another peer to peer investment,” the suit alleges.
“The FBI is seeking the public’s help in locating Burns,” it said, adding the vehicle he was driving was found abandoned in Dunwoody, Georgia. Inside the vehicle were copies of three cashier’s checks totaling more than $78,000, according to the FBI.
“The FBI is also asking anyone who has done business with Burns and feels that they may be victims to report it to the FBI,” it said, adding: “If you have any information about Burns’ location or if you think you were defrauded,” phone the FBI Atlanta field office at 770-216-3000 or go to tips.fbi.gov.
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