Former CEO of Paramount Management Charged in Manhattan Federal Court with Fraud
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that ALEX V. EKDESHMAN, 41, of Holmdel, New Jersey, was arrested this morning on commodities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud charges. EKDESHMAN is expected to be presented today in Manhattan federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Alex Ekdeshman took over a million dollars from more than a hundred investors under false pretenses, using money meant for foreign exchange transactions for other purposes, including to buy personal items and pay family members. When an investment manager lies about what he’s doing with your money, that is not just dishonest, it is a federal crime.”
Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said: “While risk is inherent in the investment world, that risk should not include reliance on a greedy investment professional who takes his client’s money through misrepresentations, putting his own financial interests above those he promised to serve. As alleged, Ekdeshman broke the law when he traded on his client’s trust and lied to investors for personal gain. The FBI is committed to protecting innocent investors and maintaining the integrity of the American financial markets.”
According to the three-count complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court:
From at least in or about May 2011 through May 2013, EKDESHMAN ran a fraudulent commodities trading scheme. EKDESHMAN, who was chief executive officer of Paramount Management, LLC (“Paramount Management”), located in New York, New York, represented to investors that Paramount Management was in the business of investing in foreign exchange currency transactions, or “forex.” Through various employees of Paramount Management, EKDESHMAN solicited investor funds on the understanding that the funds would be solely invested in forex. As a result of these solicitations, EKDESHMAN and his employees collected at least $1.58 million from approximately 115 investors.
Contrary to EKDESHMAN’s promise to invest the investors’ funds in forex, EKDESHMAN misappropriated the large majority of investor funds. More than $1 million in investor funds were never traded in forex. Instead, EKDESHMAN used those funds to make payments to himself and his family members, to buy personal items, to pay for business expenses related to Paramount Management, and to pay employees of Paramount Management.
EKDESHMAN is charged with one count of commodities fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of mail fraud. The commodities fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The wire and mail fraud counts each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and thanked the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission for its assistance. He added that the investigation is continuing.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Since the inception of FFETF in November 2009, the Justice Department has filed more than 12,841 financial fraud cases against nearly 18,737 defendants including nearly 3,500 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica A. Masella and Benjamin Naftalis are in charge of the prosecution.
The allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.