The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former broker, his company, and his business partner in an alleged real estate investment scheme utilizing high-pressure sales tactics to pilfer $6 million from retirees and other investors while using the proceeds to fund the broker’s lavish lifestyle and start e-cigarette businesses.
The SEC alleges that Leonard Vincent Lombardo, who once worked at Stratton Oakmont and has long since been barred from the brokerage industry by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for multiple violations, operated the scheme from behind the scenes at his Long Island-based company The Leonard Vincent Group (TLVG) with assistance from its CFO Brian Hudlin.
According to the SEC’s complaint, more than 100 investors were defrauded with false claims that their money would be invested in distressed real estate, and some were told their investments had increased by more than 50 percent in a matter of months when in fact there were no actual earnings on their investments. Lombardo allegedly invested only a small fraction of investor money in real estate and used the bulk of it for separate business ventures into the cigarette industry and personal expenses such as car payments on his BMW and Mercedes, marina fees on his boat, and visits to tanning salons.
“As alleged in our complaint, retirees entrusted their money to TVLG believing they were investing in high-return real estate investments, not electronic cigarettes or trips to the tanning salon,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “This is another case involving a fraudster trying to look the part of a wealthy financial advisor while doing nothing more than trying to separate people from their hard-earned money.”
The SEC received complaints from investors about how their investments were being handled, and the agency identified the perpetrators and gathered evidence to hold them accountable. The SEC encourages investors to alert the agency by filing complaints when they suspect illegal conduct, and proactively check the background of anyone selling them investments before handing over any money, including by doing a simple search on the SEC’s investor.gov website.
“Investors should be suspicious anytime they are guaranteed high investment returns,” said Lori J. Schock, Director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. “High investment returns typically involve high risk, and cannot be guaranteed.”
TLVG, Lombardo, and Hudlin have agreed to settlements that are subject to court approval. TLVG and Lombardo agreed to pay disgorgement of $5,878,729.41. Lombardo has pled guilty in a parallel criminal case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Hudlin agreed to pay a $40,000 penalty.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Prashant Yerramalli, Desiree Marmita, Kerri Palen and Sheldon L. Pollock in the SEC’s New York office. Paul Gizzi served as the senior trial counsel, and the case is being supervised by Lara S. Mehraban. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities.