U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 22909 / January 24, 2014
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Palladino, et al., Civil Action No. 13-11024-DPW (United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts)
Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Palladino, Crim. Action Nos. 13-10207, 13-10891; Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Viking Financial Group, Inc., Crim. Action Nos. 13-10209, 13-10894 (Suffolk Superior Court)
Massachusetts Resident Steven Palladino Sentenced to 10-12 Years in Prison for Role in Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that, on January 21, 2014, a Massachusetts state court judge sentenced Massachusetts resident Steven Palladino to a prison term in a criminal action filed by the Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney. The criminal action against Palladino and his company, Massachusetts-based Viking Financial Group, Inc., was initially filed in March 2013 and involves the same conduct alleged in a civil securities fraud action brought by the Commission in April 2013. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders sentenced Palladino, of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, to serve a prison term of 10-12 years, followed by a probationary period of five years, and to pay restitution to victims, for crimes that he committed in connection with a Ponzi scheme perpetrated through Viking. At the same hearing, Palladino pled guilty to criminal charges that included conspiracy, being an open and notorious thief, larceny, and larceny from elderly person(s). Viking also pled guilty to related charges and was sentenced to a probationary period of five years and ordered to pay restitution to victims. The Court set a further hearing for March 7, 2014 to determine, among other things, the amount of restitution to be paid to victims.
The Commission previously filed an emergency action against Viking and Palladino (collectively, “Defendants”) in federal district court in Massachusetts. In its complaint, the Commission alleged that, since April 2011, Defendants misrepresented to at least 33 investors that their funds would be used to conduct the business of Viking – which was purportedly to make short-term, high interest loans to those unable to obtain traditional financing. The Commission also alleged that Palladino misrepresented to investors that the loans made by Viking would be secured by first interest liens on non-primary residence properties and that investors would be repaid their principal, plus monthly interest at rates generally ranging from 7-15%, from payments that borrowers made on loans. The complaint alleged that, in truth, Defendants made very few real loans to borrowers, and instead used investors’ funds largely to pay earlier investors and to pay for the Palladino family’s substantial personal expenses, including cash withdrawals, gambling debts, vacations, luxury vehicles and tuition.
The Commission first filed this action on April 30, 2013, seeking a temporary restraining order, asset freeze, and other emergency relief – which the Court granted. On May 15, 2013, the Court also issued an escrow order, which ordered Defendants to deposit all funds and assets in their possession into an escrow account. The asset freeze and escrow order have remained in effect at all times since April 30, 2013 and May 15, 2013, respectively. On July 15, 2013, the Court held that Defendants’ conduct violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. On November 18, 2013, the Court entered orders that enjoined Defendants from further violations of the antifraud provisions of the securities laws and ordered them to pay disgorgement of $9,701,738, plus prejudgment interest of $122,370.
On September 4, 2013, the Commission filed a motion for contempt against Palladino for violations of the asset freeze and the escrow order. The motion alleged that Palladino violated the asset freeze by transferring three vehicles that he owned (solely or jointly with his wife) into his wife’s name and using the vehicles as collateral for new loans – effectively cashing out the equity in these vehicles. The motion also alleged that Palladino violated the escrow order by failing to deposit all cash in his possession into the escrow account. On November 15, 2013, the Court held Palladino in contempt and ordered that he restore ownership of the vehicles that he had transferred into his wife’s name. Subsequently, Palladino restored ownership of two of the vehicles but has failed to restore ownership of one vehicle. As a result, the Court refused to dismiss the contempt finding against him at hearings on December 3, 2013 and January 17, 2014. The Court has set a further hearing date of February 20, 2014 to address, among other things, whether Palladino remains in contempt.
The Commission acknowledges the continued assistance of Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s Office, whose office referred Palladino’s and Viking’s conduct to the Commission.