November 17, 2011
SEC Halts Scam Touting Access to Pre-IPO Shares of Facebook, Groupon
The SEC filed an emergency enforcement action to stop a fraudulent scheme targeting investors seeking coveted stock in Internet and technology companies like Facebook before they go public. According to the SEC, Florida resident John A. Mattera and several other individuals carried out the scam using a newly-minted hedge fund named The Praetorian Global Fund. They falsely claimed that the fund and affiliated Praetorian entities owned shares worth tens of millions of dollars in privately-held companies that were expected to soon hold an initial public offering (IPO) including Facebook, Groupon, and others. Mattera solicited funds and told investors that an escrow service was receiving their funds.
In reality, according to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Mattera and his cohorts never owned the promised pre-IPO shares in these companies. The purported escrow service, headed by John R. Arnold of Florida, merely transferred investor funds to personal accounts controlled by Mattera and Arnold. After Arnold took a cut of the money for himself, Mattera stole most of the remaining funds to afford his lavish personal expenses and pay others for their roles in the scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which conducted a parallel investigation of the matter, today filed criminal charges against Mattera, who was arrested earlier today. Mattera has been a subject of a prior SEC enforcement action and several state criminal actions
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