Maine’s Office of Securities Highlights State and Federal Action to Stop Scheme Targeting Deaf Investors

Mainer Among 14,000 Worldwide Allegedly Defrauded of $7 million

 GARDINER, MAINE — Maine Securities Administrator Judith M. Shaw announced on Friday that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a civil injunctive action against Jody Dunn of Texas. The complaint alleges that Dunn, who is deaf, solicited investments from others in the deaf community for Imperia Invest IBC (Imperia). The Commission previously charged Imperia with securities fraud and obtained an emergency court order to freeze its assets. At least one investor from Maine was victimized by the scheme, while others may have been targeted.

Maine’s Office of Securities took action against Imperia last year, issuing a summary Cease and Desist Order. The May 5, 2010 order prohibited Imperia from soliciting Maine investors through the offer of unregistered securities. Maine’s action resulted from a complaint involving a deaf consumer who invested $1000 in Imperia after being promised a multi-million dollar return within six months.

Securities investigators in Maine learned that Imperia’s website made claims of astonishing returns—as much as $134,000 on an investment of as little as $50. Investigators tracked Imperia to what appears to be a phony address on a South Pacific island. The Office issued its order to alert the public. Maine investigators also provided information to federal agencies to assist in a probe they were undertaking.

According to the SEC complaint, Dunn solicited more than $3.45 million as part of Imperia’s investment scheme from several thousand deaf investors. Dunn failed to tell investors that he was using a portion of their funds to pay his mortgage, car loans, car insurance and a variety of other personal expenses. Dunn sent the remaining amounts to Imperia’s offshore bank accounts in Costa Rica, Panama, the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus and New Zealand. Investors have never been paid any interest after giving their money to Dunn to invest, nor were their funds ever invested. Even after the Commission charged Imperia and issued an investor alert, Dunn continued to reassure investors that Imperia was legitimate and they would be paid.

“Actions taken by the Office of Securities and the SEC in this case will protect investors in Maine and elsewhere,” Securities Administrator Shaw commented. “This is a concrete example of how enforcement and awareness can be enhanced through cooperation between state and federal securities agencies. This case also highlights the important role victims, and those with concerns about investment offers, can play in shutting down scams.”

Shaw noted the scheme’s sophistication. Imperia’s operators allegedly used several off-shore Pay Pal-style entities in the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica and Panama, bank accounts in Cyprus and New Zealand, and apparently phony offices in the Bahamas and elsewhere to perpetrate the fraud.

Consumers with information about Imperia or Jody Dunn are urged to contact Maine’s Office of Securities. They are also encouraged to contact the Office to check an investment adviser, salesperson or investment, or for other information related to investing by calling 1-877-624-8551 (TTY 1-888-577-6690), by visiting the Office’s website (www.investors.maine.gov), or by mail to Maine Office of Securities, 121 SHS, Augusta, ME 04333-0121.

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