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SEC Charges Former Cleveland-Area Investment Promoter with $18 Million Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) filed a civil injunctive action on August 26, 2014 against Oscar F. Villarreal, formerly of Gates Mills, Ohio. The Commission’s complaint alleges that Villarreal defrauded 51 investors out of more than $18 million in three securities offerings since 2009.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleges that from March 2009 through December 2010, Villarreal conducted a fraudulent offering, known as Fund III, which raised $9.2 million from 46 investors. According to the complaint, Villarreal told investors that their money was to be used to make private equity investments in companies in the petroleum, steel, and other industries in Mexico. Villarreal lied to these investors about the success of a previous fund he operated, lied in saying that he used their money to purchase and profitably operate a Mexican pipeline manufacturer, and lied by telling investors that Fund III had ownership interests in several U.S. and Mexican drilling companies. Villarreal instead used $7.4 million of Fund III assets to trade in publicly traded securities in a brokerage account-contrary to his representations to investors-and sustained heavy losses, and also stole $5.8 million for himself. By November 2011, Fund III was essentially insolvent.

The Commission’s complaint also alleges that, between August 2010 and March 2011, Villarreal conducted a second fraudulent offering, known as the Standard Asset Management Fund I, (“SAM Fund”), which raised $9 million from 11 investors, six of whom had previously invested in Fund III. According to the complaint, Villarreal told these investors that the SAM Fund would invest in companies listed on the Mexican stock exchange. Villarreal made numerous misrepresentations to these investors. Among other things, Villarreal repeated his earlier lies about Fund II and Fund III’s purported acquisition and profitable operation of a Mexican pipeline manufacturer, he stole at least $327,000 of SAM Fund assets, and Villarreal’s trading was a massive failure, resulting in an 83% loss for the SAM Fund.

The complaint also alleges that Villarreal defrauded the SAM Fund investors between March 2012 and May 2012 by offering to “exchange” limited partnership units he claimed he owned in Fund III for the SAM Fund investors’ limited partnership units in the SAM Fund. Eight SAM Fund investors accepted Villarreal’s offer and exchanged their SAM Fund units, which they had purchased for a total of $3.1 million. Villarreal, however, lied about the number of Fund III limited partnership units he owned and the value of the Fund III units. Villarreal did not disclose to these investors that the Fund III limited partnership units were worthless.

The Commission’s complaint alleges that Villarreal violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. The Commission’s complaint seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.