U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 22619 / February 15, 2013
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Sean David Morton, Vajra Productions, LLC, 27 Investments, LLC, and Magic Eight Ball Distributing, Inc., defendants, and Melissa Morton and Prophecy Research Institute, relief defendants, Civil Action No. 10-CV-1720 (SDNY) (KBF)
District Court Grants Securities and Exchange Commission's Motions for Default Judgment against a Nationally Known Psychic and his Corporate Entities in Multi-Million Dollar Offering Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) announced today that on February 11, 2013 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered default judgments against Sean David Morton (Morton), a nationally-recognized psychic who bills himself as "America's Prophet," his wife, relief defendant Melissa Morton, and corporate shell entities co-owned by the Mortons. In addition to ordering permanent injunctions from violating antifraud and registration statutes and rule, each defendant was ordered to disgorge, jointly and severally, $5,181,135.82, along with prejudgment interest of $1,171,110.54, and pay a penalty of $5,181,135.82 for a total of $11,533,382.18. Relief defendants Melissa Morton and the Prophecy Research Institute, the Mortons' nonprofit religious organization, were ordered to disgorge $468,281 plus prejudgment interest of $105,847.23, for a total of $574,128.23.
On March 4, 2010, the Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York charging Morton and his corporate shell entities for engaging in a multi-million offering fraud. According to the Commission's complaint, Morton fraudulently raised more than $5 million from more than 100 investors for his investment group, which he called the Delphi Associates Investment Group (Delphi Investment Group).
Beginning in or around the summer of 2006, the complaint alleged, Morton solicited individuals to invest in one of several companies he and Melissa Morton controlled under the umbrella of the Delphi Investment Group. According to the Commission's complaint, Morton used his monthly newsletter, his website, his appearances on a nationally syndicated radio show called Coast to Coast AM, and appearances at public events, to promote his alleged psychic expertise in predicting the securities markets, and to solicit investors for the Delphi Investment Group. During these solicitations, Morton made numerous materially false representations. For example, Morton falsely told potential investors that he has called all the highs and lows of the stock market, on their exact dates, over a fourteen year period. Morton further falsely asserted that the alleged profits in the accounts were audited and certified by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC) who he claimed certified that the accounts had profited by 117%. Morton also falsely asserted that the investor funds would be used exclusively for foreign currency investments, and that any other use of the funds would be considered a criminal act. Morton further falsely claimed that he would use the pooled funds to trade in foreign currencies and distribute pro rata the trading profits among the investors. In private one-on-one correspondence with potential investors, Morton was even more aggressive in his solicitation. For example, Morton wrote to a potential investor urging he invest more money in the Delphi Investment Group "RIGHT NOW…[Because] [o]nce the DOLLAR starts to DROP, which will happen soon, we are set to make a FORTUNE!"
However, the complaint alleged, Morton lied to investors about his past successes, and about key aspects of the Delphi Investment Group, including the use of investor funds and the liquidity of the funds. According to the complaint, Morton did not have the successful track record picking stocks in which he claimed, and that he in fact was simply wrong in many of his securities predictions. Further, PWC never audited the Delphi Investment Group, let alone certify any profits. Also, unbeknownst to the investors, instead of investing all of the funds into foreign currency trading firms, the Mortons diverted some of the investor funds, including nearly half a million dollars to themselves through their own shell entities.
The defendants never properly answered the allegations in the complaint. Instead, the Mortons filed dozens of papers with the Court claiming, for instance, that the Commission is a private entity that has no jurisdiction over them, and that the staff attorneys working on the case do not exist.
On February 11, 2013, United States District Judge Forrest issued default judgments against all of the defendants and relief defendants. With the entry of the default judgments, the Commission received full relief requested in its complaint. The complaint charged each of the defendants with violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint further charged that the relief defendants were unjustly enriched by receiving investor funds. The complaint sought a final judgment permanently restraining and enjoining the defendants from future violations of the above provisions of the federal securities laws.
The SEC's litigation team was led by Bennett Ellenbogen, Alexander Vasilescu, Todd Brody, Elzbieta Wraga, and Roshonda Ledbetter. Amelia Cottrell, Stephen Johnson, Jacqueline Fine, and Elizabeth Baier assisted during the investigation.
For further information about the case, see Litigation Release No. 21433 (March 4, 2010).