SEC Charges Real Estate CEO With Defrauding Investors
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced securities fraud charges against recidivist Michael Shustek, the CEO of several Las Vegas real estate investment trusts (REITs), and his wholly owned investment advisory firm, Vestin Mortgage LLC.
The complaint alleges that since at least 2012, Shustek fraudulently enriched himself and one of the REITs he controlled, The Parking REIT, at the expense of two publicly traded REITs that he earlier had founded, Vestin Realty Mortgage I (VRTA) and Vestin Realty Mortgage II (VRTB). According to the complaint, Shustek drained $29 million from VRTA and VRTB in order to funnel the money into The Parking REIT and later directed VRTA and VRTB to enter into a series of money-losing transactions in which the same six buildings were repeatedly re-sold, all to benefit himself and The Parking REIT. The complaint also alleges that Shustek deceived the boards of directors of VRTA and VRTB—and violated his fiduciary duties to those companies—in two separate securities transactions to get the companies to pay him almost $10 million. Finally, the complaint alleges that Shustek repeatedly misled investors by causing VRTA and VRTB to make false and misleading statements in their public filings, which hid his self-dealing.
“REIT executives have a responsibility to be forthright with investors about how their money is being spent,” said Erin E. Schneider, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. “As we allege in our complaint, Shustek deceived the REITs’ boards of directors and shareholders to hide his repeated misuse of their assets to benefit himself.”
The SEC’s complaint, which was filed in the District of Nevada, charges Shustek and Vestin Mortgage with violating the antifraud provisions of the Securities Act, Exchange Act, and Advisers Act, and seeks disgorgement plus pre-judgment interest, penalties, permanent injunctions, and industry, penny stock, and officer and director bars against Shustek.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Ruth Hawley and supervised by Jeremy Pendrey and Monique C. Winkler, and the litigation will be conducted by Ms. Hawley, Marc Katz, and David Zhou, and supervised by Susan LaMarca, all of the San Francisco Regional Office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.