SEC Charges Tequila Company Founder with Misappropriating Investor Funds

Litigation Release No. 25031 / February 17, 2021

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Joseph Cimino, Civil Action No. 21 Civ. 1375 (S.D.N.Y., filed February 17, 2021).

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Joseph Cimino of Warwick, New York, the founder and former managing member of 6 Degree Tequila, LLC, with conducting a fraudulent securities offering and misappropriating investors' funds for personal use.

According to the SEC's complaint, from approximately December 2014 through September 2017, Cimino raised approximately $985,000 from investors through misrepresentations. As alleged, Cimino deceived certain investors by providing them with a list containing false investor names and dollar amounts of the fake investors' purported investments, creating the appearance that 6 Degree Tequila had raised more money than it actually had. The complaint further alleges that Cimino provided falsified financial statements and sales data to certain investors. In addition, as alleged, Cimino misappropriated a substantial portion of the funds raised from investors for his own personal use, including by transferring over $470,000 to his personal checking account. According to the complaint, Cimino used the stolen funds to pay his living expenses and other personal bills.

The SEC's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charges Cimino with violations of the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York today filed criminal charges against Cimino in a parallel action.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Eric Kirsch, Debbie Chan, and Wendy Tepperman, of the New York Regional Office, and the litigation will be led by Richard Hong of the New York Regional Office. The case is being supervised by Lara Shalov Mehraban. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.