SEC Charges Detroit-Area Stock Broker Who Lured Elderly into $250 Million Ponzi Scheme
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, 2009 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Detroit-area stock broker Frank Bluestein with fraud, alleging that he lured elderly investors into a $250 million Ponzi scheme after convincing many of them to refinance their home mortgages.
The SEC alleges that Bluestein acted as the single largest salesperson in the Ponzi scheme operated by Edward May and his company, E-M Management Company LLC (E-M). The SEC previously filed charges against May and E-M in connection with the fraudulent scheme.
The SEC alleges that Bluestein specifically targeted potential investors who were retired or elderly and conducted so-called “investment seminars” in Michigan and California to lure them into investing in E-M securities.
“Bluestein convinced elderly investors to refinance their homes to invest in securities that he falsely claimed were safe,” said Merri Jo Gillette, Director of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office. “His lies, false assurances, and unscrupulous tactics put many investors at risk of losing not only their life savings, but also their homes.”
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that Bluestein facilitated May’s fraudulent scheme by raising approximately $74 million from more than 800 investors through the sale of E-M securities over a five-year period. Bluestein, through his company Maximum Financial, conducted numerous investment seminars to find new E-M investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Bluestein was very methodical and careful not to discuss the E-M offerings openly during these “seminars” in a way that would alert attendees to the fact that they were actually forums to pitch the E-M offerings. Bluestein first gained the trust of potential investors in attendance by discussing generic financial planning topics and other investment products. But under the guise of informal conversations, Bluestein would generate talks among attendees who already had invested in E-M offerings. For instance, Bluestein would often ask if they had “received their Ed May checks?” or “How do you like those Ed Mays?” in order to drum up discussion of the investments and attract the interest of other potential investors attending the seminars.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Bluestein misrepresented to investors that the investments were low-risk and that he had conducted adequate due diligence with respect to the investments when, in fact, he did little to investigate the legitimacy of the E-M offerings even when confronted with serious red flags about the existence of some transactions. Bluestein also misled investors about the compensation he was receiving from the offerings by failing to disclose that he received at least $2.4 million in commissions from May and E-M in addition to the $1.4 million in disclosed compensation he received from investor funds.
The SEC complaint alleges violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder by Bluestein. As part of this action, the SEC seeks an order of permanent injunction against Bluestein as well as the payment of disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest and financial penalties.
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For more information about this enforcement action, contact:
Merri Jo Gillette
Regional Director, SEC’s Chicago Regional Office
Timothy L. Warren
Associate Director, SEC’s Chicago Regional Office
Peter K.M. Chan
Assistant Regional Director, SEC’s Chicago Regional Office