Commissioner Rubin Welcomes New Chief of Staff to OFR

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin today announced the appointment of Abigail L. Vail as the agency’s chief of staff.

Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said, “Abby is enthusiastic about my goals of fighting financial fraud, encouraging financial innovation, and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens in Florida. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position, and I am excited to have her join my team.”

Ms. Vail joins the Florida Office of Financial Regulation from the Florida State Board of Administration, where she was a senior external affairs specialist. She previously served as vice president of external affairs for UnitedHealth Group, senior cabinet aide for the Florida Department of Financial Services, and an attorney with Blank & Meenan. Ms. Vail earned an undergraduate degree, MBA, and Juris Doctorate at the Florida State University. She has been a member of the Florida Bar since 2008.

Trio Arrested in Woodbridge Case

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation applauds the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s April 11, 2019, arrest of Robert Shapiro, Ivan Acevedo and Dane Roseman for their roles in the massive multi-state Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC. An April 4, 2019, indictment unsealed in the Southern District of Florida in conjunction with the arrests charged the three Woodbridge executives with violating several federal laws, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The indictment followed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s December 2017 complaint alleging that Woodbridge and its associates sold at least $1.2 billion in fraudulent, unregistered securities to more than 8,400 victims, many of whom were senior citizens.

OFR first uncovered the enormous fraud in a late 2015 investigation, and quickly alerted the SEC and FBI. The three agencies worked together to stop the Woodbridge predators from defrauding Florida retirees. To date, OFR has filed administrative actions against 17 unregistered firms and individuals who offered and sold Woodbridge’s unregistered securities, and alleged that approximately 857 Florida victims bought more than $107 million in investments from these firms and individuals.

The ongoing OFR-SEC-FBI collaboration continues to bring the perpetrators to justice.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Florida must do all we can to protect our large population of seniors from detestable scam artists who target their hard-earned money. I launched Fraud Free Florida to continue collaborative efforts to tackle the fraud epidemic in our state so we stay two steps ahead of criminals and bring those who commit fraud to justice. Arrests like these support us in this fight, and I thank Commissioner Rubin and his team for their work to protect Floridians.”

Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said, “The hard work of OFR’s investigators and partners in this case continues to produce results like today’s arrests. OFR’s top priority is protecting Floridians, especially seniors, from financial fraud. We will not rest until every criminal who preys on our citizens is behind bars.”

More Arrests in $17 Million Fake Medical Receivables Scam

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that Jeremy Kee Anderson and Anthony Nick Nicholas, Jr., were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Anderson, Nicholas, and convicted co-conspirators Irwin Charles Ager and Eric Leon Ager allegedly defrauded elder Floridians by selling investments backed by medical receivables through Tri-Med Corporation and Tri-Med Associates. OFR’s investigation revealed that the scammers stole and spent more than $17 million of the victims’ money.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Preying on Florida’s seniors for your own financial gain is absolutely despicable. Our seniors worked their entire lives to build a nest egg and we must do all we can to protect them. I launched my Fraud Free Florida initiative for just that reason—to find scam artists and give detectives the tools they need to fight fraud in Florida. If you or a loved one has been a victim of fraud or ID theft, report it now at FraudFreeFlorida.com.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “Fighting fraud and protecting Florida’s seniors is a top priority of our office, and I want to thank OFR investigators for uncovering this multimillion dollar investment scheme targeting older Floridians. We are aggressively fighting fraud to protect Floridians’ hard-earned money and to encourage continued investment in Florida’s future.”

Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said, “OFR will use every available resource and work closely with Attorney General Moody and CFO Patronis to shut down scams like this that target Florida’s seniors. I thank our investigators and our partners for bringing these alleged criminals to justice.”

The case was jointly investigated by OFR and the United States Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices are encouraged to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com, or by calling (850) 487-9687.

Orlando Man Arrested for Investment Fraud Scheme

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that Lathon Jeen Yee was arrested in Orlando on a charge of organized scheme to defraud. If convicted, Yee faces up to five years behind bars.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Arrests like these will help us fight back against these criminals and protect Florida’s consumers. Florida is currently among the top states for fraud and identity theft nationwide. These numbers are simply unacceptable and that’s why I’ve launched my Fraud Free Florida initiative.”

Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said, “Thanks to the swift actions of OFR’s investigators and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, this alleged fraud was shut down before more Floridians could be victimized. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation will continue to work tirelessly to protect our citizens from financial fraud.”

Yee allegedly represented himself as being with Saudi-USA Oil, and guaranteed the investor a 30 percent return in 10 days. OFR’s investigation revealed that the victim’s investment was used for Yee’s personal expenses. The case is being prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida.

Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices are encouraged to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com, or by calling (850) 487-9687.


Parkland Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for $1.9 Million Fraud Scheme

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that Thomas Michael White was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his involvement in an investment fraud scheme. White was also ordered to pay full restitution of $1,936,400 to his victims. To date, three of five defendants have been convicted and sentenced in relation to this matter.

White solicited investments in First Call Ventures, which he represented to be a thriving business that generated sales leads in the moving and transportation industry. White promised investors they would receive 100 percent return on their investments. However, the investigation revealed that the company was on the verge of failure, and that White and four other defendants misappropriated investor funds for personal use. The scheme defrauded 13 victims, five of whom were seniors, out of approximately $1.9 million.

Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said, “The OFR's top priority is stopping swindlers like White from defrauding Floridians, especially seniors. I thank our OFR investigators, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for their diligent efforts to bring these bad actors to justice.”

The case was jointly investigated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The matter continues to be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices are encouraged to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com, or by calling (850) 487-9687.

Click the link below to watch the interview and appointment of the OFR Commissioner

OFR Commissioner Interview and Appointment

Financial Services Commission Appoints New OFR Commissioner

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that Ronald L. Rubin has been appointed commissioner of the agency by the Financial Services Commission.

Commissioner Ronald L. Rubin said, “I’m honored to have been chosen by the Financial Services Commission to serve Floridians as the leader of the OFR. It’s wonderful to be back in Florida, and I look forward to working with Governor DeSantis, CFO Patronis, Attorney General Moody, and Commissioner Fried. Last year’s federal tax bill made Florida even more attractive for businesses, and I plan to focus on policies that encourage financial innovation, address evolving industry concerns, and, of course, fight fraud in the Sunshine State.”

Commissioner Rubin brings a wealth of experience and knowledge at both state and federal levels. In addition to other roles, he served as a criminal prosecutor, spending time at the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, an enforcement attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Miami and New York and with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a partner at Hunton & Williams LLP, and as chief advisor on regulatory policy with the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics, MBA degree in finance from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

OFR Celebrates Florida Saves Week

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today recognizes February 25 – March 2, 2019, as Florida Saves Week to encourage Floridians to save money and build personal wealth. Florida Saves Week is part of the national initiatives, America Saves Week and Military Saves Week.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “I urge Floridians, especially those who are early in their careers or just entering the workforce, to establish a savings plan and make savings automatic. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is a resource for those interested in learning about financial topics including how to protect yourself from a potential scam. Learn more online at www.flofr.com.

President of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Michael S. Pieciak said, “Building a safe and secure financial future is critical for all generations and we must ensure this important message is making its way to Millennials. We cannot afford to let this younger generation try to build retirement security without the investor education and awareness tools they will need.”

In partnership with the North American Securities Administrators Association, the agency is focusing this year’s campaign on encouraging the younger generation to make an investment in their future financial success by setting savings goals. One of the easiest ways to make saving effective is to make it automatic. Learn more and take the savings pledge today at www.americasaves.org.

OFR Issues Second Administrative Complaint in Woodbridge Case

- Ongoing OFR investigation shows victims scammed for nearly $7 million -

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that an administrative complaint has been filed against seven firms and individuals, who offered and sold unregistered securities of Woodbridge Capital Investments, Inc., and other associated companies, to approximately 57 victims while not being registered as required by Chapter 517, Florida Statutes.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Protecting Floridians from fraud and abuse is one of my top priorities, especially when it deals with our seniors. They have worked their entire life to build a nest egg and cannot afford to have it stolen by scam artists. Let me be clear: if you commit fraud in Florida you will be caught and you will be held accountable.”

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Preying on our elderly population for financial gain is a heinous crime. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians from bad actors, and our investigative team will continue working this case to ensure those responsible for fraud and illegal financial activity are brought to justice.”

The administrative complaint has been issued against:

  • Phillip Larry Ball;
  • Gordon Carrington Hannah;
  • Retirement Planning Solutions, LLC;
  • Bender Wallace “Wally” Mackey;
  • Sycamore Group, Inc.;
  • Kevin Francis Quinn; and
  • LTC Planning, Inc.

In its second wave of actions in this case, the OFR’s administrative complaint alleges that the named sales agents and companies violated the Florida Securities and Investor Protection Act by unlawfully selling unregistered securities to Floridians. The administrative complaint alleges that approximately 57 victims bought nearly $7 million in investments from the named sales agents.

This is an ongoing investigation. In November 2017, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation sent a questionnaire to more than 800 Floridians believed to be investors in Woodbridge. If you invested in Woodbridge and have not received a questionnaire, please contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation at (850) 487-9687.

Read the administrative complaint here.

Industry Alert: Consumer Finance License Renewal

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation reminds consumer finance businesses and individuals licensed under Chapters 494, 516, 520, and 560, Florida Statutes, that the deadline to timely renew has passed. These licenses include:

  • Loan originators
  • Mortgage brokers and branches
  • Mortgage lenders and branches
  • Consumer finance companies
  • Motor vehicle installment sellers
  • Retail installment sellers
  • Home improvement installment sellers
  • Sales finance companies
  • Check cashers
  • Foreign Currency Exchangers

Loan originators, mortgage brokers and branches and mortgage lenders and branches may reactivate their license through the National Multistate Licensing System & Registry before March 1, 2019.

Check cashers and Foreign Currency Exchangers with a license expiration date of December 31, 2018, that did not timely renew and now have an inactive license, are prohibited from conducting business until the license is reactivated. Check cashers and Foreign Currency Exchangers may reactivate their license through OFR’s Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing (REAL) System before by March 1, 2019.

Consumer finances companies, motor vehicle installment sellers, retail installment sellers, home improvement installment sellers, and sales finance companies that did not timely renew and now have an inactive license, are prohibited from conducting business until the license is reactivated. These businesses may reactivate their license through OFR’s Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing (REAL) System before by July 1, 2019.

Industry Alert: Securities Businesses Registration Renewal

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation reminds securities businesses registered under Chapter 517, Florida Statutes, that the deadline to timely renew has passed. However, the option is still available for securities dealers and investment adviser firms to renew their registration with a reinstatement fee through January 31, 2019.

Canadian Broker/Dealers, Issuer/Dealers and Crowdfunding Intermediaries may login to OFR’s Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing (REAL) System, select “make payments” and follow the prompts to complete the renewal process. Payments must be received by January 31, 2019.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Broker/Dealers, federal covered Investment Advisers and state registered Investment Advisers may contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation at (850) 410-9822, to obtain an invoice to be submitted with a check or money order. Payments must be received by January 31, 2019. Please note that any payment made through the Central Registration Depository (CRD)/Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD) System is processed as a new application, not a renewal.

Consumer Alert: Military Fee Reimbursement Program

Tallahassee, Fla. - Florida is the most military friendly state in the nation, with more than 1.5 million military veterans living in the Sunshine State. Last year, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 29 to help military members in Florida by allowing for certain financial services business licensure fees to be reimbursed.

Through the Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Military Family Opportunity Act, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation offers reimbursement of fees associated with licensure of mortgage loan originators and securities associated persons to active members of the military, veterans, and spouses in Florida.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “After their faithful service to our country, we owe our veterans and military members the opportunity to succeed at home. By reaffirming this commitment and removing licensure obstacles, we give Floridians who donned a uniform more options to prosper professionally.”

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The OFR is proud to offer the military fee reimbursement program to veterans and their families. We appreciate their service and sacrifice, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to serve as a resource and assist with their licensure needs.”

If you hold a current mortgage loan originator or securities associated persons license or registration in Florida and you are also currently serving, or have formerly served, as an active duty member of the United States Armed Services, or are also a spouse of such a member, you may be eligible to seek reimbursement of fees. Please review, complete and submit the waiver form to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for reimbursement.

FORM OFR-MIL-001

Current licensees with questions on the reimbursement process may call (850) 487-9687.

Key West Trio Arrested for $7 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that Jose Luis Leon, Richard A. Renner, and Natalie M. Rogers were arrested on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, securities fraud, organized fraud and grand theft in the first degree for their alleged role in an investment fraud scheme.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “No matter the scheme, anyone who defrauds Floridians out of their nest egg are some of the worst fraud criminals. People work their entire lives to save money for their families’ future. I want to make it clear: anyone who preys on our communities to pocket money for their own personal gain, will be found and brought to justice. Thank you to every investigator and law enforcement officer involved in this case for bringing these bad actors to justice.”

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “I thank our investigators, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Key West Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution for their efforts in this case. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation will continue to work tirelessly with our partners to protect Floridians from financial criminals.

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “These suspects preyed upon their victims stealing their life’s savings, wellbeing and peace of mind just to line their own pockets. FDLE will continue to work with our partners, like the Office of Financial Regulation, to stop devastating financial crimes like this one.”

Leon, Renner and Rogers allegedly used Strategic Holdings Group, a purported investment fund company, to target investors through word-of-mouth and brochure advertising. The trio purportedly represented themselves as sophisticated and experienced money managers with access to exclusive investments, such as energy-related limited partnerships, real estate, tax liens, private equity, precious metals, and other alternative assets, and allegedly offered eight percent per year return to investors. However, the investigation revealed that the trio purportedly used investors’ money to fund their personal lifestyle. More than 20 victims are alleged to have been defrauded out of more than $7 million.

The case was jointly investigated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Arrests were made by the Key West Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices are encouraged to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com, or by calling (850) 487-9687.

OFR Releases New Edition of Fast Facts

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that the new edition of its Fast Facts is now available. The pocket guide, released annually, provides Floridians with OFR data and trends from the past fiscal year.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Our annual Fast Facts is a useful booklet that helps consumers and stakeholders understand more about who we are and what we do. It's important that consumers are aware of the resources available to them, including how to verify a license and file a complaint with OFR. We’re excited to release this newly-redesigned version for 2019.”

Reduce your risk of identity theft by:

  • Increasing Taxpayer Value: Licenses under regulation by the OFR have increased 3.2 percent in the past year and have increased 13 percent in the last five years. The OFR now oversees more than 458,000 licensees.
  • Improving Customer Service: In Fiscal Year 2017-18, the OFR answered more than 37,000 consumer calls in an average of 16 seconds.
  • Delivering Value to Businesses: In Fiscal Year 2017-18, the OFR approved more than 76,000 license applications. Licenses are approved in an average of 5 days.

Download a copy.

Request printed copies.

Industry Alert: OFR License Renewal Process is Open

Don't wait - renew your license today!

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s (OFR) renewal cycle is well underway for businesses and individuals licensed with OFR under Chapters 494, 516, 517, 520, 559, F.S., and a portion of the businesses licensed under Chapter 560, F.S.

Businesses and individuals are reminded to complete the renewal process to maintain their active license status. Florida law requires businesses and individuals to have an active license with the OFR to conduct certain types of financial services business. If your license is inactive or expired, you are prohibited from conducting business until you reactivate your license or apply and are granted a new license. OFR is encouraging businesses and individuals to complete the renewal process early in the renewal cycle rather than waiting, to avoid any lapse of licensure.

Businesses and individuals holding the below license types can renew through the OFR Online Services Portal on or before December 31, 2018. Please review the instructions prior to logging in as a “Returning User” if you have not accessed the OFR Online Services Portal since June 1, 2018.

Businesses and individuals listed below licensed under Chapter 494, F.S., need to renew their license through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry on or before December 31, 2018.

Businesses and individuals with the below registrations are reminded to pay all renewal fees through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Central Registration Depository before December 17, 2018.

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Orlando Man Sentenced to Prison in $3.6 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the sentencing of Justin Troy Spearman to more than four years in prison and eight years of probation after pleading no contest to charges of grand theft, securities fraud, selling unregistered securities and selling securities as unregistered agent.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to working with our state and federal partners to protect Floridians from financial criminals. Thank you to our investigators, the Winter Park Police Department and the Office of Statewide Prosecution for their efforts in this case.”

Spearman solicited investments from Florida victims in a scheme involving royalty interest from oil and gas leases. He presented investors with documents that purported to demonstrate that he had rights to an oil and gas leasing enterprise, so that they would invest with him. The investigation revealed that the documents were fake and that Spearman used most of investors’ money to fund his extravagant lifestyle. Spearman defrauded victims out of more than $3.6 million.

This case was investigated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Winter Park Police Department. The case was prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Consumer Alert: Marriott Data Breach

Tallahassee, Fla. - Marriott announced Friday that hackers stole data from as many as 500 million guests who made reservations at Marriott's Starwood properties. The hack, which began in 2014, compromised information including combinations of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences. If you made a reservation on or before September 10, 2018, at a Starwood property, information you provided may have been involved. To enroll in WebWatcher and get additional information about the breach, visit the incident response website, email incidentsupport@kroll.com, or call (877) 273-9481.

As Florida’s financial regulator, the OFR encourages you to understand how to reduce your risk of identity theft and take immediate steps to protect your personal identifying information.

Reduce your risk of identity theft by:

  • Changing your passwords on all your accounts regularly.
  • Checking your credit report at least annually with the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
  • Shredding or destroying all documents with personal identifying information when you are finished with them.
  • Never verifying or giving personal identifying information over the phone or through email, especially if the contact was unsolicited.
  • Request fraud alerts on your accounts and your credit report.

Reduce your risk of identity theft by:

  • Check: Watch for suspicious or unauthorized transactions on your financial, professional and personal accounts. Contact the sender immediately if financial statements or bills do not arrive on time.
  • Contact: File a report with the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and local law enforcement. Contact your financial institutions to alert them, and to replace your debit and credit cards. Request a fraud alert on your credit reports from the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
  • Collect: Collect all evidence that you may have to support your claim. This could be cancelled checks, credit card receipts, unusual email messages, etc.

Texas Man Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Florida Little League Participation Fees

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the arrest of Daniel Ptak for grand theft and allegedly acting as a money services business without a license.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Thank you to our investigators and our partners for their hard work in this case. I encourage all Floridians who suspect questionable financial business practices to file a complaint online at www.flofr.com or call OFR at (850) 487-9687.”

Ptak, through his company Jevin, Inc., allegedly misappropriated more than $37,000 of little league participation fees. The OFR investigation revealed that Jevin, an online scheduling and payment service company, purportedly accepted payments from more than 250 Florida little league families on behalf of Northeast Little League, which is based in St. Petersburg, FL. Ptak failed to transmit the participation fees back to Northeast Little League. Instead, the money was allegedly used to fund Ptak’s personal lifestyle.

The case originated from a complaint referred to the OFR by a constituent tip from the Office of Florida Senator Jeff Brandes. The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.

OFR to Participate in a $26 Million Multi-State Settlement with LPL Financial LLC

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that the agency will participate in a settlement with LPL Financial LLC to repurchase from investors certain securities sold since October 2006 and to pay administrative penalties of $499,000 to Florida upon entering the final order.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians and will continue to work with our partners in other states to hold financial services businesses accountable.”

The settlement stems from an investigation led by state securities regulators from Alabama and Massachusetts regarding the failure to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities by LPL to its customers.

In July 2017, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the Florida Office of Financial Regulation is a member, established a task force with Massachusetts and Alabama as lead states to investigate LPL’s failure to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities by LPL to its customers. LPL fully cooperated with the NASAA task force.

State securities regulators concluded that LPL offered and sold unregistered, non-exempt securities and failed to reasonably supervise the flow of information to ensure full and proper compliance with state securities registration requirements.

While no evidence was found of willful, reckless, or fraudulent conduct by LPL, investigators did find that the firm failed to maintain adequate systems to reasonably supervise agents, staff, and employees to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities. LPL failed to invest sufficient and appropriate resources in personnel, expertise, systems, and operations to adequately comply with state securities registration statutes, rules, and regulations.

In addition to an administrative penalty, the settlement calls for LPL to offer to repurchase from investors securities held in LPL accounts determined to have been unregistered, non-exempt equity or fixed-income securities sold since October 1, 2006. Each offer also shall include 3 percent simple interest per year.

View the Final Order

OFR Donates Food and Supplies to Hurricane Micheal Relief Efforts

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the donation of more than 385 lbs., of non-perishable food and other items to support ongoing Hurricane Michael relief efforts.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “I am proud of our team, and their generous efforts to help friends and neighbors in the Panhandle region who were impacted by this devastating storm. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, these donations will benefit families who need them most.”

FLOFR donating hurricane supplies

Left to right: Chief of Investigations Steve Horn, Interim Commissioner Pam Epting, Director of Securities Lee Kell, Director of Financial Institutions Jeremy Smith, Director of Consumer Finance Greg Oaks. Donations were delivered to Second Harvest of the Big Bend, a regional food bank serving 11 counties in the Big Bend area.

Consumer Alert: Promissory Notes

Tallahassee, Fla. - In recognition of International Fraud Awareness Week, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation is raising investor awareness of the risks associated with investments in promissory notes.

State securities regulators have identified promissory notes as a leading source of complaints to their agencies. . In fact, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which OFR is a member, reported 210 investigations involving promissory notes, which led to 149 formal enforcement actions by state securities regulators last year.

The OFR reminds investors to be cautious of short-term promissory notes. Investors should be cautious about promissory notes with durations of nine months or less, as these notes generally do not require federal or state securities registration. Such short-term notes have been the source of most (though not all) of the fraudulent activity involving promissory notes.

Before making any financial decisions, verify that you're working with a licensed professional, ask questions, do your homework and contact the Florida Office of Financial Regulation to report financial fraud or suspicious activity via phone (850) 487-9687 or online.

Investigator Protection Tips: Promissory Notes

Interim Commissioner Epting Receives Stetson's Distinguished Alumni Award

DeLand, Fla. - Florida Office of Financial Regulation Interim Commissioner Pam Epting received the Stetson University Distinguished Alumni Award on Saturday, Nov. 3, as part of the university's 2018 homecoming celebration. The award honors Stetson University alumni who have brought distinction and special recognition to their alma mater through outstanding achievement in their lives and professions.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, "I am humbled by this recognition, and I offer sincere thanks to the university administration and the Stetson family for selecting me for this honor. I’m incredibly grateful to this institution and my family for providing me with a foundation for public service, integrity and leadership."

Epting Family

Bay Area Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Scheme

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the arrest of James Harold Hosner, of Safety Harbor, for his alleged role in an investment scam. He is charged with the sale of an unregistered security, sale of a security by an unregistered dealer, securities fraud, and grand theft.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to working with our state and federal partners to bring financial criminals to justice. I thank OFR's investigators and the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this case.”

Hosner, Chief Executive Officer of the former Phoenix Insurance Services, Inc., based in St. Petersburg, allegedly sold and issued promissory notes totaling more than $48,000 to an elderly victim. He is believed to have exploited his existing relationship as the victim’s insurance agent. Hosner purportedly represented that he was in negotiations to purchase another insurance agency, and the victim’s investment would be used to complete the sale. However, Hosner allegedly used the investment to pay routine business expenses, and failed to disclose that he and the company were in financial distress.

This case is being prosecuted by the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office.

Consumer Alert: Military Fee Waiver Program

Active military members, veterans, and their spouses can now apply for reimbursement of mortgage loan originator and securities associated person license fees.

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced that rulemaking to implement Florida House Bill 29, the Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Military Family Opportunity Act, is complete. Active military members, veterans, and their spouses can now apply for reimbursement of fees associated with licensure of mortgage loan originators and securities associated persons.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The OFR is proud to support those who serve our nation, veterans, and their families. The Military Fee Waiver Program is one way to give back to these brave individuals. We encourage individuals and licensees who qualify to apply for reimbursement of license fees.”

For more information and instructions about the requirements and how to apply by license type, check out the links below.

Consumer Alert: Self-Directed IRAs

Tallahassee, Fla. – Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are an important piece of your retirement planning. Self-directed IRAs have become a popular choice for those looking to supplement their nest egg. While most IRAs invest your money in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., which are registered with regulatory organizations, a self-directed IRA allows the owner more control over where the money is invested, including unregistered investments. Typically, people invest in real estate, private placements, etc., though increasingly, self-directed IRA owners are investing in cryptocurrencies. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation, together with Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, are encouraging Floridians to be extremely cautious when choosing to invest in cryptocurrencies through a self-directed IRA.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “The Florida Office of Financial Regulation is committed to protecting Floridians from financial fraud. Verify the financial services individual, company or investment with us online at www.flofr.com or by calling (850) 487-9687.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Consumers should always do their homework before investing their hard-earned money, no matter how enticing the possibility may sound. Florida is a top state for cryptocurrency and unfortunately, fraud. It’s my job to make sure we do everything possible to protect you from being taken advantage of. Always verify before you buy and remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Protect yourself by doing your homework on retirement accounts and investments before committing to a decision.

  • Make sure that the company or investment is properly registered or licensed. Investments in cryptocurrencies are subject to little or no regulatory oversight, and reliant upon unregulated companies. Before you choose an unregistered investment, be sure you can independently verify all the information provided.
  • Talk to multiple professionals beforehand, and find someone who aligns with your priorities. Even with a self-directed IRA, you may choose to speak with a licensed professional to help determine the suitability of investments. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, vulnerable to cyber hacks and susceptible to fraud or theft, making them unsuitable for most investors.
  • Stay away from unsolicited offers, high pressure sales tactics, or offers that sound too good to be true.
  • Get everything in writing, and read the written agreement carefully and completely before signing it. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand.
  • Don’t let yourself be rushed, take the time you need to make an informed decision.

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation offers Floridians a robust online collection of Consumer Resources, where you can find more information on several financial topics, including tips on how to protect yourself from potential scams.

Five Sentenced for Roles in $6 Million Investment Fraud

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Office of Financial Regulation today announced the sentencing of Angela Monaco (more than six years), Pasquale Rubbo (more than eight years) and Steven Dykes (nine years) to prison after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. Previously sentenced to prison were co-defendants Joseph Rubbo (five years) and Nicholas Rubbo (four years) after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud. All defendants were also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and pay restitution totaling more than $6 million.

Interim Commissioner Pamela Epting said, “Thank you to our investigative team, along with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation team, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, CO, for their assistance in bringing these scammers to justice. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation remains committed to working with our partners to protect Floridians from financial criminals.”

Through their companies, VIP Television, Inc. (VIP TV), The Spongebuddy, LLC (The Scrubbieglove, LLC), and ANJ Productions, Inc., the group defrauded investors out of more than $6 million by making false statements and representations related to securities offerings. The group promised unrealistically high returns, fake proposed mergers, exaggerated demands for the spongebuddy product and the existence of celebrity investors to entice victims to invest.

Visit OFR’s Consumer Resources.

Consumer Alert: Military Fee Waiver Program

Tallahassee, Fla. – Buying a new or used vehicle is exciting, and it can be easy to get swept up by a persuasive salesperson. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) oversees motor vehicle retail installment sellers. The license authorizes its holder to offer installment payments to its customers, for the sale of motor vehicles to retail buyers. This license is required by firms that sell and finance vehicles, such as automobiles, trucks, trailers, RV's, motorcycles, and mobile homes. The OFR encourages Floridians to be sure they are fully informed before making a financial decision, including a vehicle purchase.

Protect yourself with these helpful tips:

  1. Research the vehicle you're interested in purchasing so you understand what you would expect to pay. Make a budget and consider getting pre-approved for a loan.
  2. Research financial institutions, dealerships, and other lenders to help you get the best financing available to you. Preparing ahead of time will get you ready to negotiate and make the process less stressful. Shop around to make sure you get the best deal.
  3. When you decide on a vehicle dealer and financing, make sure the business and individuals are properly licensed. Floridians can verify the license of motor vehicle retail installment sellers with OFR online or contact the agency about the seller's complaint history. The Better Business Bureau is also a great resource to view complaints about a dealership or lender.
  4. Get everything in writing. Read the loan contract carefully and completely – before signing it. Make sure it matches the price and terms that you agreed to.
  5. While monthly payments are an important aspect of the transaction, don’t forget to be aware of the total amount you are financing. The payments may fit your budget, but the total amount financed and terms of the loan are an important part of the equation.
  6. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Don’t let yourself be rushed, take the time you need to make an informed decision. Once you sign the loan contract, you are obligated to those terms regardless of what may have been said verbally.

The OFR offers Floridians a collection of Consumer Resources, where you can find more information on financial topics, including tips on how to protect yourself from potential scams.

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