Fri 20 Feb, 2009 11:36 am
U.S. halts fraud targeting deaf investors
Fri Feb 20, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. securities and futures regulators halted a $4.4 million Ponzi scheme that targeted deaf investors in the United States and Japan, the Securities and Exchange Commission said on Thursday.
Since at least September 2007, Hawaii-based Billion Coupons and its chief executive Marvin Cooper raised $4.4 million from 125 investors through personal contacts, seminars at deaf community centers and its website, the SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleged.
The regulators obtained a court order to freeze Cooper and Billion Coupons' assets. The SEC, criticized for not uncovering Bernard Madoff's alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme earlier, also alleged that Cooper used at least $1.4 million in investor funds for personal expenses.
Regulators allege that Billion Coupons and Cooper told investors their funds would be invested in foreign exchange markets and they would receive returns of up to 25 percent compounded monthly from such trading.
But instead, Billions Coupons and Cooper lost the small portion of investor funds it invested in foreign exchange trading and failed to generate enough money to pay the purported returns, the regulators said.
Billion Coupons and Cooper are charged with operating a Ponzi scheme where earlier investors were paid with money from later investors.
Calls to a lawyer for cooper were not immediately returned.
(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Andre Grenon)