U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 22101 / September 22, 2011
SEC v. Doris E. Nelson, Case No. 2:11-cv-00345-RMP (E.D. WA filed September 22, 2011)
SEC CHARGES OWNER OF SPOKANE-BASED PAYDAY LOAN BUSINESS WITH DEFRAUDING INVESTORS IN PONZI SCHEME
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the owner of a Spokane-Wash.-based payday loan business with conducting a massive Ponzi scheme and stealing investor money to fund her home improvement projects, gambling jaunts to Las Vegas, and purchases of a Corvette and a Mercedes.
The SEC alleges that Doris E. Nelson of Colbert, Wash., defrauded investors in her company - the Little Loan Shoppe - by misrepresenting the profitability and safety of their investments and giving them the false impression that their money was being used to grow her business. In truth, Nelson used the vast majority of new investor money to repay principal and purported returns to earlier investors. She misappropriated millions of dollars in investor funds for her personal use.
According to the SEC's complaint filed in federal district court in Spokane, Nelson raised approximately $135 million between 1999 and 2008 from at least 650 investors in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Nelson falsely told investors that Little Loan Shoppe was financially sound. In written promissory notes, Nelson promised investors annual returns of 40 to 60 percent that she claimed would be paid through Little Loan Shoppe's profits. She also told investors that their money was safe because she had insurance or a separate account to pay investors back. However, Little Loan Shoppe was not profitable, investor money was not safe, and Nelson misappropriated the money to run her Ponzi scheme.
The SEC further alleges that in mid-2008 as the scheme was nearing collapse, Nelson made a last-ditch effort to attract more investment money by announcing a "window to invest" and falsely telling investors that Little Loan Shoppe had "defied financial gravity" in the declining economy. Investors responded by investing millions of dollars in 2008 before the scheme finally collapsed in 2009. Payments to investors ceased and Little Loan Shoppe was forced into bankruptcy.
In its federal court action, the SEC alleges Nelson violated 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 SEC seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and monetary penalties.