Indictment Unsealed Today Regarding $11 Million Boiler Room Mail and Wire Fraud
Owner, Manager, and Salesperson at Fraudulent Investment Venture Taken into Custody for Mail and Wire Fraud in Connection with $11 Million Fraudulent Oil and Gas Well Investment Scheme
|FBI Los Angeles October 01, 2013|
LOS ANGELES—Two men were taken into custody today by special agents of the FBI for their alleged involvement in an Orange County boiler room operation that defrauded investors by falsely claiming high returns from oil and gas wells and by failing to disclose high sales commissions on investments, announced Bill L. Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, and André Birotte, Jr., United States Attorney for the Central District of California. A third defendant charged in this indictment is already in custody on unrelated charges.
Jerry Aubrey, 51, already in custody; his brother Timothy Aubrey, 53, of Moreno Valley, who self-surrendered to the FBI’s Riverside Resident Agency; and Aaron Glasser, 30, of Mission Viejo, who was arrested without incident, are all in custody today after a federal grand jury indictment that charges them with mail and wire fraud was unsealed.
The indictment alleges Jerry Aubrey founded, managed, and operated the telemarketing investment scheme (also known as a “boiler room”) located in Costa Mesa, California, doing business as Progressive Energy Partners LLC (PEP). Timothy Aubrey worked as a PEP manager and salesperson, in addition to preparing, with Aaron Glasser, the sales scripts read to potential investors. Finally, Aaron Glasser was a PEP salesperson who worked as both a sales “fronter” and “closer,” making cold calls and closing deals. In his work as a salesperson, the indictment alleges Glasser raised around a quarter of the total amount of investments.
PEP allegedly employed salespersons called fronters and closers to raise over $11 million in five unregistered securities offerings for the purported purpose of developing and supporting oil and gas wells. In reality, most of the money was used to pay for the Aubrey brothers' personal expenses, to pay up to 30 percent commissions to salespersons, and to make Ponzi-like payments to previous investors.
The defendants directed salespersons to cold call potential investors from purchased lead lists and solicit investments using scripts touting the profitability of investing in PEP. Fronters would pass the names of those who were potentially interested to closers, who could conclude the sale.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants caused the salespersons to make material misrepresentations and conceal material facts when speaking to investors about, among other things, the percentage of investor money that would be spent on the development and operation of oil and gas wells, the anticipated amount and timing of returns to investors, and the payment of sales commissions to PEP salespersons (the fronters and closers).
Some of the false and deceptive statements indicated that investors would receive a greater than 50 percent annual rate of return on their investments; that almost half of the investor funds would be spent on oil and gas wells and that the remainder of the investor funds would be spent on other business expenses; that salespersons would only receive a sales commission in the form of a share of the investment profits; and that PEP would use the assistance of an “independent CPA firm” to make distributions to investors.
The indictment alleges that, through the scheme, the defendants concealed from investors the material facts that approximately 30 percent of the investor funds would be spent on the Aubreys' personal expenditures; that almost 20 percent of the investor funds would be used to make investor distributions and to return investor principal; that less than 10 percent of investor funds was spent on oil and gas wells; that investors would not, in fact, earn an annual rate of return of over 50 percent; and that defendant Jerry Aubrey, rather than an independent CPA firm, would determine the distributions to investors. The indictment alleges that by devising, executing, and participating in the above scheme, the defendants induced more than 200 investors to distribute to PEP over $11 million between 2005 and 2010.
In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained summary judgment against these defendants in connection with the PEP investment scheme. Additionally, Jerry Aubrey was charged in 1998 by the SEC with violating the broker-dealer registration provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 in connection with an offering fraud in which he sold securities in a fictitious cruise ship. The following year, he was permanently enjoined from future violations of Section 15(a)(1) of the Exchange Act (failure to register as a broker dealer), a permanent injunction he has violated through his alleged activities in PEP.
If convicted on all eight counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 200 years in federal prison.
The criminal investigation was conducted by the FBI. The Securities and Exchange Commission conducted the civil investigation.
An indictment itself is not evidence that the defendants committed the crimes charged. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.