Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that an administrative complaint has been filed against seven firms and individuals, who offered and sold unregistered securities of Woodbridge Capital Investments, Inc., and other associated companies, to approximately 57 victims while not being registered as required by Chapter 517, Florida Statutes.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Protecting Floridians from fraud and abuse is one of my top priorities, especially when it deals with our seniors. They have worked their entire life to build a nest egg and cannot afford to have it stolen by scam artists. Let me be clear: if you commit fraud in Florida you will be caught and you will be held accountable.”
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Preying on our elderly population for financial gain is a heinous crime. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians from bad actors, and our investigative team will continue working this case to ensure those responsible for fraud and illegal financial activity are brought to justice.”
The administrative complaint has been issued against:
In its second wave of actions in this case, the OFR’s administrative complaint alleges that the named sales agents and companies violated the Florida Securities and Investor Protection Act by unlawfully selling unregistered securities to Floridians. The administrative complaint alleges that approximately 57 victims bought nearly $7 million in investments from the named sales agents.
This is an ongoing investigation. In November 2017, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation sent a questionnaire to more than 800 Floridians believed to be investors in Woodbridge. If you invested in Woodbridge and have not received a questionnaire, please contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation at (850) 487-9687.
Read the administrative complaint here.
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation reminds consumer finance businesses and individuals licensed under Chapters 494, 516, 520, and 560, Florida Statutes, that the deadline to timely renew has passed. These licenses include:
Loan originators, mortgage brokers and branches and mortgage lenders and branches may reactivate their license through the National Multistate Licensing System & Registry before March 1, 2019.
Check cashers and Foreign Currency Exchangers with a license expiration date of December 31, 2018, that did not timely renew and now have an inactive license, are prohibited from conducting business until the license is reactivated. Check cashers and Foreign Currency Exchangers may reactivate their license through OFR’s Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing (REAL) System before by March 1, 2019.
Consumer finances companies, motor vehicle installment sellers, retail installment sellers, home improvement installment sellers, and sales finance companies that did not timely renew and now have an inactive license, are prohibited from conducting business until the license is reactivated. These businesses may reactivate their license through OFR’s Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing (REAL) System before by July 1, 2019.
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation reminds securities businesses registered under Chapter 517, Florida Statutes, that the deadline to timely renew has passed. However, the option is still available for securities dealers and investment adviser firms to renew their registration with a reinstatement fee through January 31, 2019.
Canadian Broker/Dealers, Issuer/Dealers and Crowdfunding Intermediaries may login to OFR’s Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing (REAL) System, select “make payments” and follow the prompts to complete the renewal process. Payments must be received by January 31, 2019.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Broker/Dealers, federal covered Investment Advisers and state registered Investment Advisers may contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation at (850) 410-9822, to obtain an invoice to be submitted with a check or money order. Payments must be received by January 31, 2019. Please note that any payment made through the Central Registration Depository (CRD)/Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD) System is processed as a new application, not a renewal.
Tallahassee, Fla. - Florida is the most military friendly state in the nation, with more than 1.5 million military veterans living in the Sunshine State. Last year, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 29 to help military members in Florida by allowing for certain financial services business licensure fees to be reimbursed.
Through the Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Military Family Opportunity Act, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation offers reimbursement of fees associated with licensure of mortgage loan originators and securities associated persons to active members of the military, veterans, and spouses in Florida.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “After their faithful service to our country, we owe our veterans and military members the opportunity to succeed at home. By reaffirming this commitment and removing licensure obstacles, we give Floridians who donned a uniform more options to prosper professionally.”
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The OFR is proud to offer the military fee reimbursement program to veterans and their families. We appreciate their service and sacrifice, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to serve as a resource and assist with their licensure needs.”
If you hold a current mortgage loan originator or securities associated persons license or registration in Florida and you are also currently serving, or have formerly served, as an active duty member of the United States Armed Services, or are also a spouse of such a member, you may be eligible to seek reimbursement of fees. Please review, complete and submit the waiver form to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for reimbursement.
Current licensees with questions on the reimbursement process may call (850) 487-9687.
Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that Jose Luis Leon, Richard A. Renner, and Natalie M. Rogers were arrested on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, securities fraud, organized fraud and grand theft in the first degree for their alleged role in an investment fraud scheme.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “No matter the scheme, anyone who defrauds Floridians out of their nest egg are some of the worst fraud criminals. People work their entire lives to save money for their families’ future. I want to make it clear: anyone who preys on our communities to pocket money for their own personal gain, will be found and brought to justice. Thank you to every investigator and law enforcement officer involved in this case for bringing these bad actors to justice.”
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “I thank our investigators, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Key West Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution for their efforts in this case. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to protect Floridians from financial criminals.
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “These suspects preyed upon their victims stealing their life’s savings, wellbeing and peace of mind just to line their own pockets. FDLE will continue to work with our partners, like the Office of Financial Regulation, to stop devastating financial crimes like this one.”
Leon, Renner and Rogers allegedly used Strategic Holdings Group, a purported investment fund company, to target investors through word-of-mouth and brochure advertising. The trio purportedly represented themselves as sophisticated and experienced money managers with access to exclusive investments, such as energy-related limited partnerships, real estate, tax liens, private equity, precious metals, and other alternative assets, and allegedly offered eight percent per year return to investors. However, the investigation revealed that the trio purportedly used investors’ money to fund their personal lifestyle. More than 20 victims are alleged to have been defrauded out of more than $7 million.
The case was jointly investigated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Arrests were made by the Key West Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices are encouraged to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com, or by calling (850) 487-9687.
Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that the new edition of its Fast Facts is now available. The pocket guide, released annually, provides Floridians with OFR data and trends from the past fiscal year.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Our annual Fast Facts is a useful booklet that helps consumers and stakeholders understand more about who we are and what we do. It's important that consumers are aware of the resources available to them, including how to verify a license and file a complaint with OFR. We’re excited to release this newly-redesigned version for 2019.”
Reduce your risk of identity theft by:
Download a copy.
Request printed copies.
Don't wait - renew your license today!
Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s (OFR) renewal cycle is well underway for businesses and individuals licensed with OFR under Chapters 494, 516, 517, 520, 559, F.S., and a portion of the businesses licensed under Chapter 560, F.S.
Businesses and individuals are reminded to complete the renewal process to maintain their active license status. Florida law requires businesses and individuals to have an active license with the OFR to conduct certain types of financial services business. If your license is inactive or expired, you are prohibited from conducting business until you reactivate your license or apply and are granted a new license. OFR is encouraging businesses and individuals to complete the renewal process early in the renewal cycle rather than waiting, to avoid any lapse of licensure.
Businesses and individuals holding the below license types can renew through the OFR Online Services Portal on or before December 31, 2018. Please review the instructions prior to logging in as a “Returning User” if you have not accessed the OFR Online Services Portal since June 1, 2018.
Businesses and individuals listed below licensed under Chapter 494, F.S., need to renew their license through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry on or before December 31, 2018.
Businesses and individuals with the below registrations are reminded to pay all renewal fees through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Central Registration Depository before December 17, 2018.
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Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the sentencing of Justin Troy Spearman to more than four years in prison and eight years of probation after pleading no contest to charges of grand theft, securities fraud, selling unregistered securities and selling securities as unregistered agent.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to working with our state and federal partners to protect Floridians from financial criminals. Thank you to our investigators, the Winter Park Police Department and the Office of Statewide Prosecution for their efforts in this case.”
Spearman solicited investments from Florida victims in a scheme involving royalty interest from oil and gas leases. He presented investors with documents that purported to demonstrate that he had rights to an oil and gas leasing enterprise, so that they would invest with him. The investigation revealed that the documents were fake and that Spearman used most of investors’ money to fund his extravagant lifestyle. Spearman defrauded victims out of more than $3.6 million.
This case was investigated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Winter Park Police Department. The case was prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.
Tallahassee, Fla. - Marriott announced Friday that hackers stole data from as many as 500 million guests who made reservations at Marriott's Starwood properties. The hack, which began in 2014, compromised information including combinations of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences. If you made a reservation on or before September 10, 2018, at a Starwood property, information you provided may have been involved. To enroll in WebWatcher and get additional information about the breach, visit the incident response website, email email@example.com, or call (877) 273-9481.
As Florida’s financial regulator, the OFR encourages you to understand how to reduce your risk of identity theft and take immediate steps to protect your personal identifying information.
Reduce your risk of identity theft by:
Reduce your risk of identity theft by:
Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the arrest of Daniel Ptak for grand theft and allegedly acting as a money services business without a license.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Thank you to our investigators and our partners for their hard work in this case. I encourage all Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com or call OFR at (850) 487-9687.”
Ptak, through his company Jevin, Inc., allegedly misappropriated more than $37,000 of little league participation fees. The OFR investigation revealed that Jevin, an online scheduling and payment service company, purportedly accepted payments from more than 250 Florida little league families on behalf of Northeast Little League, which is based in St. Petersburg, FL. Ptak failed to transmit the participation fees back to Northeast Little League. Instead, the money was allegedly used to fund Ptak’s personal lifestyle.
The case originated from a complaint referred to the OFR by a constituent tip from the Office of Florida Senator Jeff Brandes. The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that the agency will participate in a settlement with LPL Financial LLC to repurchase from investors certain securities sold since October 2006 and to pay administrative penalties of $499,000 to Florida upon entering the final order.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians and will continue to work with our partners in other states to hold financial services businesses accountable.”
The settlement stems from an investigation led by state securities regulators from Alabama and Massachusetts regarding the failure to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities by LPL to its customers.
In July 2017, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the Florida Office of Financial Regulation is a member, established a task force with Massachusetts and Alabama as lead states to investigate LPL’s failure to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities by LPL to its customers. LPL fully cooperated with the NASAA task force.
State securities regulators concluded that LPL offered and sold unregistered, non-exempt securities and failed to reasonably supervise the flow of information to ensure full and proper compliance with state securities registration requirements.
While no evidence was found of willful, reckless, or fraudulent conduct by LPL, investigators did find that the firm failed to maintain adequate systems to reasonably supervise agents, staff, and employees to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities. LPL failed to invest sufficient and appropriate resources in personnel, expertise, systems, and operations to adequately comply with state securities registration statutes, rules, and regulations.
In addition to an administrative penalty, the settlement calls for LPL to offer to repurchase from investors securities held in LPL accounts determined to have been unregistered, non-exempt equity or fixed-income securities sold since October 1, 2006. Each offer also shall include 3 percent simple interest per year.View the Final Order
Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the donation of more than 385 lbs., of non-perishable food and other items to support ongoing Hurricane Michael relief efforts.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “I am proud of our team, and their generous efforts to help friends and neighbors in the Panhandle region who were impacted by this devastating storm. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, these donations will benefit families who need them most.”
Left to right: Chief of Investigations Steve Horn, Interim Commissioner Pam Epting, Director of Securities Lee Kell, Director of Financial Institutions Jeremy Smith, Director of Consumer Finance Greg Oaks. Donations were delivered to Second Harvest of the Big Bend, a regional food bank serving 11 counties in the Big Bend area.
Tallahassee, Fla. - In recognition of International Fraud Awareness Week, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation is raising investor awareness of the risks associated with investments in promissory notes.
State securities regulators have identified promissory notes as a leading source of complaints to their agencies. . In fact, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which OFR is a member, reported 210 investigations involving promissory notes, which led to 149 formal enforcement actions by state securities regulators last year.
The OFR reminds investors to be cautious of short-term promissory notes. Investors should be cautious about promissory notes with durations of nine months or less, as these notes generally do not require federal or state securities registration. Such short-term notes have been the source of most (though not all) of the fraudulent activity involving promissory notes.
Before making any financial decisions, verify that you're working with a licensed professional, ask questions, do your homework and contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation to report financial fraud or suspicious activity via phone (850) 487-9687 or online.
DeLand, Fla. - Florida Office of Financial Regulation Interim Commissioner Pam Epting received the Stetson University Distinguished Alumni Award on Saturday, Nov. 3, as part of the university's 2018 homecoming celebration. The award honors Stetson University alumni who have brought distinction and special recognition to their alma mater through outstanding achievement in their lives and professions.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, "I am humbled by this recognition, and I offer sincere thanks to the university administration and the Stetson family for selecting me for this honor. I’m incredibly grateful to this institution and my family for providing me with a foundation for public service, integrity and leadership."
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the arrest of James Harold Hosner, of Safety Harbor, for his alleged role in an investment scam. He is charged with the sale of an unregistered security, sale of a security by an unregistered dealer, securities fraud, and grand theft.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to working with our state and federal partners to bring financial criminals to justice. I thank OFR's investigators and the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this case.”
Hosner, Chief Executive Officer of the former Phoenix Insurance Services, Inc., based in St. Petersburg, allegedly sold and issued promissory notes totaling more than $48,000 to an elderly victim. He is believed to have exploited his existing relationship as the victim’s insurance agent. Hosner purportedly represented that he was in negotiations to purchase another insurance agency, and the victim’s investment would be used to complete the sale. However, Hosner allegedly used the investment to pay routine business expenses, and failed to disclose that he and the company were in financial distress.
This case is being prosecuted by the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office.
Active military members, veterans, and their spouses can now apply for reimbursement of mortgage loan originator and securities associated person license fees.
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that rulemaking to implement Florida House Bill 29, the Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Military Family Opportunity Act, is complete. Active military members, veterans, and their spouses can now apply for reimbursement of fees associated with licensure of mortgage loan originators and securities associated persons.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The OFR is proud to support those who serve our nation, veterans, and their families. The Military Fee Waiver Program is one way to give back to these brave individuals. We encourage individuals and licensees who qualify to apply for reimbursement of license fees.”
For more information and instructions about the requirements and how to apply by license type, check out the links below.
Mortgage Loan Originator
Dealers – FINRA Member: Associated Person
Dealers – Non-FINRA Member: Associated Person
Federal Covered Advisers: Associated Person
State Registered Advisers: Associated Person
Tallahassee, Fla. – Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are an important piece of your retirement planning. Self-directed IRAs have become a popular choice for those looking to supplement their nest egg. While most IRAs invest your money in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., which are registered with regulatory organizations, a self-directed IRA allows the owner more control over where the money is invested, including unregistered investments. Typically, people invest in real estate, private placements, etc., though increasingly, self-directed IRA owners are investing in cryptocurrencies. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation, together with Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, are encouraging Floridians to be extremely cautious when choosing to invest in cryptocurrencies through a self-directed IRA.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians from financial fraud. Verify the financial services individual, company or investment with us online at www.flofr.com or by calling (850) 487-9687.”
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Consumers should always do their homework before investing their hard-earned money, no matter how enticing the possibility may sound. Florida is a top state for cryptocurrency and unfortunately, fraud. It’s my job to make sure we do everything possible to protect you from being taken advantage of. Always verify before you buy and remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Protect yourself by doing your homework on retirement accounts and investments before committing to a decision.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation offers Floridians a robust online collection of Consumer Resources, where you can find more information on several financial topics, including tips on how to protect yourself from potential scams.
Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the sentencing of Angela Monaco (more than six years), Pasquale Rubbo (more than eight years) and Steven Dykes (nine years) to prison after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. Previously sentenced to prison were co-defendants Joseph Rubbo (five years) and Nicholas Rubbo (four years) after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud. All defendants were also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and pay restitution totaling more than $6 million.
Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Thank you to our investigative team, along with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation team, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, CO, for their assistance in bringing these scammers to justice. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation remains committed to working with our partners to protect Floridians from financial criminals.”
Through their companies, VIP Television, Inc. (VIP TV), The Spongebuddy, LLC (The Scrubbieglove, LLC), and ANJ Productions, Inc., the group defrauded investors out of more than $6 million by making false statements and representations related to securities offerings. The group promised unrealistically high returns, fake proposed mergers, exaggerated demands for the spongebuddy product and the existence of celebrity investors to entice victims to invest.
Visit OFR’s Consumer Resources.
Tallahassee, Fla. – Buying a new or used vehicle is exciting, and it can be easy to get swept up by a persuasive salesperson. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) oversees motor vehicle retail installment sellers. The license authorizes its holder to offer installment payments to its customers, for the sale of motor vehicles to retail buyers. This license is required by firms that sell and finance vehicles, such as automobiles, trucks, trailers, RV's, motorcycles, and mobile homes. The OFR encourages Floridians to be sure they are fully informed before making a financial decision, including a vehicle purchase.
Protect yourself with these helpful tips:
The OFR offers Floridians a collection of Consumer Resources, where you can find more information on financial topics, including tips on how to protect yourself from potential scams.