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SEC Files Complaint against Suspended Broker John Piccarreto, Jr. in Connection With $102 Million Ponzi Scheme

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Money in WastebasketOn June 19, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a Complaint against various individuals and entities — including former financial advisor John Charles Piccarreto, Jr. (CRD# 6276418) of San Antonio, TX — in furtherance of the SEC’s efforts to “stop an ongoing fraudulent scheme in which the Defendants have raised more than $102 million from at least 637 investors across the United States since 2011.”  As alleged by the SEC, Defendants Perry Santillo and Christopher Parris of Rochester, NY purportedly orchestrated a fraudulent Ponzi-like scheme predicated upon first buying or taking over books of business from retiring investment professionals from around the country.

According to the Complaint, after acquiring new investors and assets, Messrs. Santillo and Parris (each formerly registered with FINRA) would coordinate their sales efforts with Defendants, including John Piccarreto, Jr., in order to allegedly persuade victims into withdrawing savings from traditional investments, in order to transfer the capital into issuers controlled by Messrs. Santillo, Parris, or certain of their associates.  The SEC has alleged that the Defendants would “falsely claim that their investors’ money [would] be used to operate businesses in fields such as financial services, insurance, real estate development, and medical laboratories.”  In actuality, however, the SEC has alleged that Defendants would transfer funds received into “multiple accounts held in the names of different entities” controlled by Defendants.  While some of the funds were purportedly used to repay investors in typical Ponzi-fashion, the SEC has alleged that the bulk of the monies were misappropriated by the Defendants.

With regard to Mr. Piccarreto, the SEC has alleged that, in one instance, he met with an elderly investor from Austin, TX in February 2015.  As alleged, Mr. Piccarreto convinced the 80 year old investor, who suffered from dementia, into putting $250,000 into an entity controlled by Defendants: Percipience.  Mr. Piccarreto later emailed the investor’s daughter, in response to her concerns with the Percipience investment, that “I know this is scary for you and you are just looking out for dad but I promise you I will not let anything happen to any of the money.”  In total, the SEC has alleged that Mr. Piccarreto misappropriated approximately $1.3 million in investor money.

According to FINRA BrokerCheck, former financial advisor John Piccarreto, Jr. was previously affiliated with First American Securities, Inc. (CRD# 35841) from June 2014 – July 2015.  In July 2017, he voluntarily consented to a two-year suspension from the securities industry, as well as a deferred fine of $15,000, pursuant to a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver & Consent (“AWC”) accepted by FINRA Enforcement on June 20, 2017.  As determined by FINRA Enforcement, Mr. Piccarreto allegedly “participated in at least 20 private securities transactions, including some transactions by elderly customers, by way of unregistered, private” offerings without providing written notice to his employer, First American Securities.

Brokerage firms including First American Securities have an affirmative obligation to ensure that their registered representatives are adequately supervised.  Brokerage firms must also take reasonable steps to ensure that their financial advisors follow all applicable securities rules and regulations, in addition to adhering to internal policies and procedures.  In instances when brokerage firms fail to adequately supervise their registered representatives, they may be held liable for losses sustained by investors.

Attorneys at Law Office of Christopher J. Gray, P.C. have successfully resolved a number of disputes on behalf of investors, including cases involving Ponzi schemes and related misconduct.  Investors may contact a securities arbitration attorney by telephone at (866) 966-9598, or by e-mail at newcases@investorlawyers.net for a no-cost, confidential consultation.