SEC Obtains Emergency Relief, Charges Florida Company and CEO with Misappropriating Investor Money and Operating a Ponzi Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it filed an emergency action and obtained a temporary restraining order and an asset freeze to stop an alleged Ponzi scheme and misappropriation of investor proceeds perpetrated by Melbourne, Florida resident Jonathan P. Maroney through several entities he controls.
According to the SEC’s complaint, which was filed in federal court in the Middle District of Florida, since about May 2015, Maroney and his companies raised at least $17.1 million from more than 100 investors in a series of fraudulent securities offerings. The complaint alleges that Maroney, his company Harbor City Capital Corp., and his various other entities told investors that offering proceeds would be used to finance the defendants’ online “customer lead generation campaigns,” and promised investors annual returns ranging from 10% to 60% from the resale of those leads to other businesses. In fact, according to the complaint, little if any investor funds actually went to the lead generation business. Instead, the complaint alleges, Maroney misappropriated at least $4.48 million in investor funds to enrich himself and his family, including the purchase and maintenance of his waterfront home and a Mercedes Benz, and to pay for his extensive credit card bills and renovation-related expenses on the house. The complaint further alleges that Maroney misused investor money by making payments to other entities unrelated to the supposed purpose of the offerings, and that he fraudulently used investor funds to make monthly interest payments and other payouts to investors in a classic Ponzi scheme fashion.
“As alleged in our complaint, Maroney lured investors with promises of double-digit returns and false claims, while pocketing millions of investor dollars for himself,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “Investors should be skeptical of any investment that promises extraordinarily high rates of return.”
The SEC’s complaint, filed on April 20, 2021, and unsealed today, charges the defendants with violating the antifraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws. In addition to the emergency relief granted by the Court, the complaint seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty from each of the defendants. The complaint also names Tonya Maroney, Maroney’s wife, and Celtic Enterprises LLC, another Maroney-controlled entity, as relief defendants for receiving proceeds from the alleged fraud. The Court set a hearing for April 29, 2021, to determine if a preliminary injunction should be entered and whether the asset freeze should remain in force for the duration of the litigation.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Brian Theophilus James and Kathleen Strandell in the Miami Regional Office, and was supervised by Chedly C. Dumornay and Glenn S. Gordon. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Alise Johnson. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.