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Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Monday, March 23, 2009

SEC Obtains Asset Freeze Against Alleged Investment Fraud

The SEC today obtained an emergency court order to halt an ongoing scheme by a Palmdale, California company and two individuals who have defrauded investors through a series of false claims including that Warren Buffett is associated with the company.  According to the SEC's complaint, International Realty Holdings, Inc. (IRH), Ottoniel Medrano (a prison guard at California City Correctional Center), and Leticia Isabel Medrano have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors in several states since October 2008. The defendants defrauded investors by falsely claiming, among other things, that Warren Buffett is IRH's "Honorary Chairman," that Berkshire Hathaway and Credit Suisse are involved in the investment, and that IRH has $4.8 billion in total assets and owns various properties throughout Asia. After obtaining money from investors, the Medranos transferred funds to offshore bank accounts.

The SEC's complaint, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, CA, charges IRH and the Medranos with raising at least $485,000 and likely more than $700,000 in selling preferred stock in IRH. The rate at which the defendants have raised funds has increased substantially over the last two months, averaging about $250,000 per month. According to IRH's offering materials, defendants intended to raise up to $6 billion in the offering.

In its lawsuit, the SEC obtained an order (1) freezing the assets of IRH and the Medranos; (2) requiring the repatriation of assets; (3) requiring accountings; (4) prohibiting the destruction of documents; (5) granting expedited discovery; and (6) temporarily enjoining IRH and the Medranos from future violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC also seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, and civil penalties against IRH and the Medranos. A hearing on whether a preliminary injunction should be issued against the defendants is scheduled for April 2, 2009 at 2 p.m.

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