The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced charges against a Florida-based company, its chief executive and its top sales agent in regards to conducting a boiler room scheme that solicits investments in a business purportedly facilitating online and cell phone sales of lottery tickets in various states.
The agency obtained an emergency court order freezing the assets of LottoNet Operating Corp., David Gray and Joseph A. Vitale.
According to the report, the SEC alleges that they misrepresented to investors that their money would be used to develop and market LottoNet and that sales agents did not receive commissions. At least 35% of investor proceeds were allegedly paid to boiler room sales agents in the form of commissions, and LottoNet allegedly siphoned investor funds for personal spending on clothing, wedding-related expenses and strip clubs.
Among the pitches used in sales agent scripts prepared for cold calls to investors was “you’re looking at a monthly dividend payout of $8,500 every month” on a $25,000 investment if LottoNet reaches 1% market share. Also the scripts allegedly touted the purported safety of the investment, noting a 60% return as a “worst case” scenario if the company was ever sold.
The SEC has alleged that while LottoNet has raised a total of roughly $4.8 million from investors, the company had only paid $10,525.43 in investment returns to investors through the end of February. Sales agents allegedly have been paid more than $1.1 million out of investor funds.
Furthermore it was alleged that Vitale, who personally raised at least $1.4 million from investors, used the alias Donovan Kelly in an apparent attempt to hide from investors that he is permanently barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Eric I. Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office, commented:
As alleged in our complaint, little did investors know they were being duped with a script based on misrepresentations while investor funds were being spent in strip clubs.