Just about any time of the day, the airwaves are filled with self-appointed financial gurus spewing their secrets for managing money and ways to get rich. But the true secrets of more than a dozen of these wealth peddlers may be in their shady backgrounds and off-the-air dealings. Here are a few examples of the bamboozlements, as disclosed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other authorities.
On June 13, 2011, Clifford Robertson was sentenced to 97 months for bank fraud, to be followed by 24 months for aggravated identity theft and ordered to pay $4,627,520 in restitution, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation Dallas Field Office. The bureau’s investigation determined that Robertson claimed to be a real estate investment advisor who hosted AM radio real estate investment talk shows and in-person seminars. Robertson admitted that beginning in December 2007, he used the identity of another person to submit a fraudulent personal financial statement to a lending institution in order to obtain money by false pretenses. The loss to investors was estimated at around $3 million.
Another recent financial show host shakedown was announced in a June 3, 2011 press release by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida which said that “criminal information was filed against Anthony F. Cutaia, charging him with nine counts of mail fraud…” Cutaia, who was the host of “Talk About Mortgages and Real Estate,” a television and radio program, was also the managing member and beneficial owner of CMG Property Investment Group, LLC, which purportedly engaged in commercial real estate investments in Florida, and promised not to collect commissions or fees from the investors until the properties were sold and a profit was made. However, court papers allege that Cutaia invested little of the money and instead used it to make payments to pre-existing investors and to pay his own business and personal expenses. Legal documents further show that Cutaia filed for bankruptcy in 2007, but that case was tossed out. He filed another Chapter 7 petition on May 11, 2011.
Also exposed this year was John Farahi, a host on a Farsi language radio station in the Los Angeles area. The SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleges that NewPoint, co-owners John Farahi and Gissou Rastegar Farahi, and its controller Elaheh Amouei targeted investors in the Iranian-American community by touting NewPoint on a daily finance radio program hosted by Farahi. The SEC charges that the Farahis or Amouei would then make appointments with interested listeners to discuss investment opportunities offered by NewPoint, and subsequently misled more than 100 investors into purchasing over $20 million worth of debentures that they claimed were low risk. Many investors also were falsely told that they were investing in FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, or government or corporate bonds issued by companies backed by the funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). According to the SEC, most of the money raised was instead transferred to accounts controlled by the Farahis to, among other things, fund construction of their multi-million dollar personal residence in Beverly Hills.