Litigation Release No. 24769 / [March 13, 2020]

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stacey Beane, Justin Deckert and Travis Laska, No. 5:20-cv-00095-FL (E.D.N.C. filed March 12, 2020).

SEC Charges Three Individuals for Falsifying Records in Connection with Investment Adviser Ponzi Scheme Investigation

The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday charged three individuals who, while working for an investment adviser, falsified and withheld documents that were requested by staff of the SEC during an examination and ensuing enforcement investigation.

According to the SEC's complaint, Stacey Beane, of Florida, Justin Deckert, of Virginia, and Travis Laska, of North Carolina, helped conceal a fraudulent offering of more than $10 million in promissory notes by Stephen C. Peters, the owner and principle of VisionQuest Wealth Management, LLC, to Peters's advisory clients. The SEC previously charged Peters and his companies based on the fraudulent offering, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina filed criminal proceedings against Peters based on the same misconduct, as well as Peters' providing false information to Commission staff. On June 6, 2019, following a trial by jury, Peters was convicted in the criminal case of twenty counts, including counts alleging investment adviser fraud, fraudulent sale of unregistered securities, mail and wire fraud, and falsification of documents provided to the Commission.

Beane, Deckert, and Laska allegedly fabricated documents to suggest that Peters had disclosed potential conflicts of interest to VisionQuest's compliance officer, altered other documents to make certain clients appear to be accredited investors, and forged or backdated client signatures on various agreements, all of which Beane, Deckert, and Laska knew would eventually be provided to the SEC. In addition, in response to SEC staff requests for emails sent to and from Peters, the complaint alleges that Beane and Laska used keyword searches provided by Peters to identify certain responsive emails that should be withheld from the production to the SEC.

The SEC's complaint, filed yesterday in federal court in Raleigh, North Carolina, charges Beane, Deckert, and Laska with aiding and abetting VisionQuest's violations of the books and records provisions of Section 204(a) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and Rule 204-2 thereunder. The complaint seeks injunctions and civil monetary penalties against each defendant.

Deckert has, without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, consented to a judgment that enjoins him from aiding and abetting violations of these provisions, and orders him to pay a $30,000 penalty. Deckert has also consented to an order by the Commission that bars him from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization, with the right to apply for reentry after five years. In accepting Deckert's offer to settle the Commission considered Deckert's cooperation in the criminal case against Peters.

The SEC's litigation is being led by Edward Sullivan and Graham Loomis.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.