Four insurance agents have been charged by the SEC with unlawfully selling securities in a multimillion-dollar scheme that defrauded elderly investors, the SEC said Friday.
Kenneth C. Meissner of Fair Oaks Branch, Texas; James Doug Scott of Perkasie, Pa., and Mark S. Tomich of Belmont, Mich., raised about $1.5 million in the scheme and received almost $90,000 in commissions, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission administrative complaint.
The fourth agent, David C. Sorrells of Linden, Texas, entered into a cooperation agreement with the SEC and helped with its investigation. Without admitting or denying the findings, Sorrells consented to being barred from the securities industry and to paying a disgorgement of $207,000.
In November, the SEC charged the alleged ringleader of the scheme, Gary C. Snisky of Longmont, Colo., a self-described institutional trader, with defrauding elderly investors. The victims were persuaded to make investments in purported government-secured bonds, but Snisky allegedly used their money to pay his mortgage. Snisky is awaiting an administrative hearing and faces criminal charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado.
Snisky targeted retired annuity holders by using insurance agents to sell interests in his company, Arete LLC, which advertised itself as a safe and more profitable alternative to an annuity, according to the SEC. Investors were told their funds would be used to purchase government-backed agency bonds at a discount, and that Snisky would use the bonds for overnight banking sweeps.
However, Snisky did not purchase bonds or conduct any such trading, and he misappropriated about $2.8 million of investor funds to pay commissions to his salespeople and make personal mortgage payments, the SEC said.
“With one hand Snisky ushered investors into a supposedly safe investment opportunity with guaranteed profits, and with the other hand he put investors’ money into his own pocket,” said Julie K. Lutz, director of the SEC’s Denver regional office.
According to a complaint filed in federal court in Denver, Snisky raised at least $4.3 million over 18 months from more than 40 investors in Colorado and several other states. Beginning in August 2011, Snisky recruited veteran insurance sales people who sold the Arete investment to their established clients who owned annuities, the SEC said. The insurance agents also did not register with the SEC as broker-dealers as required, the SEC said.