Litigation Release No. 25720 / May 11, 2023

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Charles T. Lawrence, Jr., et al.No. 23-CV-0550 (E.D. Wis., May 1, 2023)

SEC Charges Connecticut Man with Defrauding Investors of $4.8 Million and Obtains Emergency Relief

The SEC today announced that it had obtained ex parte emergency court orders from the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, after it filed a complaint under seal charging Charles Thomas Lawrence, Jr., a resident of Connecticut and Long Island, New York, with misappropriating at least $4.8 million from 11 investors in Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, and elsewhere. On May 4, 2023, the court entered an ex parte temporary restraining order against Lawrence, prohibiting him from violating the antifraud provisions of Securities Act and Exchange Act, and from soliciting, accepting, or depositing any monies obtained from actual or prospective investors pending the final outcome of the action, as well as other ancillary relief. The court also froze Lawrence’s assets, and the assets of five named relief defendants.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Lawrence schemed to defraud investors and misappropriated at least $4.8 million of investor funds for personal benefit. As alleged, Lawrence misrepresented that he was the managing director of a defunct Swedish entity and that, among other things, the investment contracts he offered guaranteed no losses and generated weekly investment returns that ranged from 25 to 100%. However, these no-risk investments were fictitious, the complaint alleges. Lawrence allegedly directed money instead to an entity he controls, Landes Prive, LLC. As further alleged, Lawrence misappropriated almost all of the investor funds to make lavish personal purchases, including spending at least $1.2 at Cartier and at least $522,000 for charter jets and international travel. In addition, Lawrence is alleged to have sent at least $689,000 to the named relief defendants. Finally, the complaint alleges that Lawrence attempted to hide his scheme when he created a fake web-portal purporting to show investments and returns, gave various excuses for failure to return investor funds, and made Ponzi-like payments to certain investors.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin charges Lawrence with violating 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. The SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, a civil penalty, and a bar against Lawrence serving as an officer or director of a public company. The complaint also names relief defendants:  Justin D. Smith, Brenda M. Bisner, Landes Prive, LLC, Landes and Compagnie Trust Prive a/k/a Landes and Compagnie Trst [sic] Prive KB; and HekYeah, LLC, and seeks disgorgement with prejudgment interest from each relief defendant.

The SEC’s investigation, which is ongoing, was conducted by Matthew T. Wissa, Keith Constance, and supervised by Amy S. Cotter of the Chicago Regional Office. The litigation will be handled by Mr. Wissa, BeLinda Mathie, and Daniel Hayes.

The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Missouri Secretary of State Securities Division.