The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today that it obtained an emergency court order to halt a Ponzi scheme that promised investors high returns on water-filtering natural stone pavers but bilked them of approximately $26 million over a four-year period.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the SEC alleges in its complaint that between 2006 and 2010, convicted felon Eric Aronson and others defrauded about 140 individual investors in PermaPave Companies, a group of firms based on Long Island, NY, and controlled by Aronson. According to the complaint, the investors were told that PermaPave had a tremendous backlog of orders for pavers imported from Australia, which could be sold in the U.S. at a substantial mark-up, yielding monthly returns of 7.8% to 33%. But in reality, the complaint states, there was little demand for the product, and the cost of the pavers far exceeded the revenue from sales.
In their Ponzi scheme, Aronson and two other PermaPave executives, Vincent Buonauro Jr. and Robert Kondratick, used the new funds to make payments to earlier investors and then siphoned off much of the rest for themselves, buying luxury cars, gambling trips, and jewelry, according to the complaint. Aronson also allegedly used the investors’ money to make court-ordered restitution payments to victims of a previous scheme to which he pleaded guilty in 2000.
The complaint further states that when investors began demanding their money, Aronson accused them of committing a felony by lending the PermaPave Companies money at the interest rates he promised them, which he suddenly claimed were usurious. Aronson and his attorney, Fredric Aaron, then allegedly made false statements to persuade investors to convert their securities into ones that deferred payments for several years.
The SEC also charges that the defendants used some of the money raised through the Ponzi scheme to purchase a publicly traded company, Interlink-US-Network, Ltd. Several months later, the SEC said that Interlink issued a Form 8-K, signed by Kondratick, which falsely claimed that LED Capital Corp. had agreed to invest $6 million in Interlink. According to the complaint, LED Capital Corp. did not have $6 million and had no dealings with Interlink.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which conducted a parallel investigation, filed criminal charges against Aronson, Buonauro, and Kondratick.