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SEC Charges Four in Fraudulent “Free Dinner” Scheme


Washington D.C., April 4, 2016 —

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it has charged four individuals in a fraud whose victims included seniors who were solicited at “free dinner” investment seminars in Florida.

The SEC alleges that Philadelphia residents Joseph Andrew Paul and John D. Ellis, Jr. lied about the track record of their investment advisory firm and recruited James S. Quay of Atlanta and Donald H. Ellison of Palm Bay, Florida, to lure potential victims with promises of lofty returns.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Paul and Ellis created fraudulent marketing materials including some with performance numbers that were “cut and pasted” from another firm’s website.  The complaint further alleges that Quay and Ellison used these materials to mislead seniors who responded to their mass-mailing offer of a free dinner at a Tampa restaurant.

“As we allege in our complaint, a large portion of the money was never invested but instead was split among these self-described investment experts whose only real expertise was stealing other people’s money,” said Sharon Binger, Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Quay used an alias, “Stephen Jameson,” to conceal his true identity from potential victims.  Quay was previously convicted of tax fraud in 2005 and found liable for securities fraud in a 2012 SEC enforcement action.   

“Jameson” was not registered as an investment professional during the relevant period of fraudulent conduct, and Ellison also was not registered for the majority of that period.  Investors can easily and quickly check the registration status and disciplinary history of investment professionals by using the searchable database on the SEC’s website. 

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Lisa M. Candera and Brendan P. McGlynn and supervised by G. Jeffrey Boujoukos.   David L. Axelrod and Mark R. Sylvester will lead the SEC’s litigation.  The examination that led to the investigation was conducted by Michael K. Nally, William M. Lavin, and John Cajulis, under the supervision of Steven R. Dittert.  


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