Local financial firm charged in $15M Ponzi scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a federal lawsuit against Indianapolis-based financial planning firm Veros Partners Inc. and multiple related co-defendants, it announced Friday.

The SEC alleges the advisers defrauded 80 farm-loan investors of $15 million in 2013 and 2014, using those proceeds to repay earlier investors.

A federal judge has blocked the company and its principals from soliciting investors, frozen defendants’ assets, and ordered appointment of a receiver. The SEC complaint seeks an order requiring defendants to “disgorge their ill-gotten gains received as a result of the violations alleged.”

Veros President Matthew D. Haab, 43, of Indianapolis and associates Jeffrey B. Risinger, 59, of Fishers and Tobin J. Senefeld, 48, of Indianapolis also are named as individual defendants.

Veros Partners has been a registered investment adviser since 2006 and has about $160 million in assets under management. It also offers business-consulting and tax services.

According to the complaint, defendants through Veros Farm Loan Holding LLC and FarmGrowCap LLC made farm loan offerings to investors in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The complaint says investors were informed “that investor funds would be used to make short-term operating loans to farmers for the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons. Contrary to these representations, although some investor money was loaned to the farms, significant portions of the loan proceeds were not used for current farming operations but were used to cover the farms’ prior, unpaid debt.”

The SEC says “Haab, Risinger, and Senefeld used money from the 2013 and 2014 offerings to make at least $7 million in payments to investors in other offerings and to pay themselves over $800,000 in undisclosed ‘success’ and ‘interest rate spread’ fees. They also repeatedly misled investors about the risks, nature, and performance of the investments and underlying farm loans.”

The SEC says that less than $5 million of about $12 million in loans owed in connection with the 2014 offering have been repaid, and that the roughly $7 million owed on the loans is insufficient to repay investors who are owed $9 million in principal and interest, to be repaid April 30.

Likewise, the complaint says about $2.8 million in investor funds from the 2013 offering was used to repay investors on 2012 loans.

The suit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis. On Thursday, District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted a temporary restraining order barring defendants, who also include PinCap LLC, from soliciting investors until the case is resolved. The order froze three dozen checking, savings, brokerage, IRA and 401(k) accounts in defendants’ names, and it required defendants to submit to an accounting.

Thursday’s order also called for a receiver to be appointed next week and set a hearing for a preliminary injunction before Magnus-Stinson at May 1 at 1 p.m.

The suit lists six violations of securities laws, alleging all defendants knowingly or recklessly misrepresented or omitted material details about the investments with the intent to defraud. Veros partners also lacked a qualified custodian to maintain, segregate and verify funds and securities, the suit claims.

A receptionist who answered the phone at Veros Partners on Friday said the company had no comment about the suit and hung up. Summonses for all defendants were sent to New York attorney David Danovitch, who did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Friday.

An email sent to Haab, who founded Veros in 2000, seeking comment was not returned.

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