A West Roxbury, Mass., man and his company have been accused by regulators of operating a Ponzi scheme that drew $5.5 million in assets.
The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Steven Palladino and his company Viking Financial Group raised the money from approximately 30 investors for a portfolio of loans that largely didn't materialize.
Palladino, who identifies himself as the owner, president and vice president of Viking, promised investors their money would be used to make short-term, high interest loans to developers and small businesses unable to obtain traditional financing loans, the SEC said. According to the complaint, however, he made very few real loans, and instead used investors' funds to make payments to earlier investors and pay for the Palladino family's substantial personal expenses. These included cash withdrawals and hundreds of thousands of dollars used for gambling excursions, vacations, luxury vehicles and tuition.
The complaint further alleges that Palladino falsely told investors that they would be paid back their principal, plus monthly interest, at rates generally ranging from 7 percent to 15 percent, from payments made by borrowers on the loans.
In March of this year, Palladino, his wife Lori and Viking were indicted by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts on numerous criminal charges, including larceny offenses and tampering with evidence, related to their loan business. Palladino was also charged as an “open and notorious thief” by the district attorney for a lengthy criminal record spanning almost two decades.
Since the criminal matter became known, Viking has failed to make monthly interest payments to investors, and investors' requests to have their principal returned to them has been refused.
A temporary restraining order and asset freeze has been placed against Palladino and Viking.
According to the SEC, in 1994 Palladino was censured, fined $50,000 and barred from association with any Finra member in any capacity based on charges he misappropriated and withheld customer funds for his own use while employed by a brokerage firm in Braintree, Mass. Palladino was criminally charged in connection with that matter and has an extensive criminal history of larceny-type offenses, with criminal convictions spanning from at least 1995 to March 2007.