The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged two California men and their investment firm with operating a Ponzi scheme as they purported to specialize in serving middle-class investors and securing exorbitant returns by investing in hot pre-IPO stocks. The agency also obtained a court-ordered asset freeze against them.
The SEC alleges that instead of using the firm’s purported proprietary trading models and investing in pre-IPO shares of well-known tech companies like Uber, Alibaba, and Airbnb as promised to investors, Jaswant “Jason” Gill and Javier Rios personally pocketed at least $2.8 million in investor funds, using some of that money to pay for excursions to high-end restaurants and luxury retail stores as well as jaunts to Las Vegas casinos, gentlemen’s clubs, and professional sporting events. They never actually invested in any pre-IPO shares, and have been using money from new investors to pay supposed returns to earlier investors. They have raised approximately $10 million through their firm, JSG Capital Investments, and related entities, by catering to average retail investors and promising them exclusive investment opportunities “previously only available to the one-percenters,” with guaranteed annual returns of up to 60 percent.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco, Gill in particular has brandished phony credentials, telling investors he founded his firm after serving as a managing director at Morgan Stanley. He also boasted partnerships with several Silicon Valley venture capital firms. Gill, Rios, and JSG Capital Investments are not registered with the SEC or any state regulator. Rios’s background is in food service.
Investors can quickly and easily check the credentials of people selling investments and determine whether they are registered by using the SEC’s investor.gov website
“We allege that Gill and Rios enticed middle-class investors by promising access to highly coveted investment opportunities they claimed were typically reserved for the rich,” said Jina L. Choi, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. “Exclusivity, exorbitant returns, and exaggerated credentials are all classic hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme, and investors can protect themselves by heeding these red flags and checking whether the person pitching the investments is properly registered to sell them.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California today announced criminal charges against Gill and Rios.
The SEC’s complaint seeks permanent injunctions plus disgorgement and monetary penalties from Gill, Rios, JSG Capital Investments and related entities. The SEC has obtained a court order to freeze the assets of Gill, Rios, and the JSG entities and preliminarily enjoin them from violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and raising money from investors.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Ruth Hawley and John Roscigno and supervised by Jeremy Pendrey of the San Francisco office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Jason Habermeyer, Andrew Hefty, and Ms. Hawley. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and California Department of Business Oversight.
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