The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed an emergency action and obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against a Riverside, Calif.-based registered investment adviser to halt an ongoing Ponzi scheme targeting senior citizens.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Paul Horton Smith Sr. offered and sold securities in his company, Northstar Communications, and used his investment advisory firm, eGate, and insurance and estate planning company, Planning Services, to market the securities.
From at least January 2018 through the present, the SEC charges, Smith and Northstar ran free workshops and other investor events allegedly promising investors guaranteed annual interest payments between 3% and 10.5% if they invested in so-called “private annuity contracts.”
The complaint alleges that in reality, Smith did not invest the funds raised in any securities and instead used new investor funds to pay investor returns. According to the complaint, Northstar raised more than $5.6 million from at least 35 investors and paid out $5.2 million to those investors as interest payments or principal returned. Smith also allegedly used investor funds to settle investor fraud lawsuits.
The SEC’s complaint charges Smith, Northstar, eGate and Planning Services with violating the anti-fraud provisions of federal securities laws, and seeks injunctions, the return of ill-gotten gains plus interest, and civil penalties.
A hearing is scheduled for June 3 to consider continuing the asset freeze, issuance of a preliminary injunction, and appointment of a permanent receiver.