Washington, D.C., April 9, 2009 (LAWFUEL) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Marietta, Ga.-based attorney for operating a Ponzi scheme that sold promissory notes to raise funds that were purportedly invested in real estate transactions, including private mortgages.
The SEC alleges that Robert P. Copeland promoted investment opportunities verbally and through written materials with false claims of earning interest of 15 to 18 percent in a year or less. Copeland fraudulently raised more than $35 million from at least 140 investors in Georgia and several other states. Copeland actually used very little of the investor funds in connection with real estate acquisition or development, and instead deposited investor funds into four bank accounts in the name of his law firm. He used new investor funds to make payment obligations to earlier investors, and misappropriated millions of dollars for such personal expenses as his residence, vehicles, and expensive artwork.
“Copeland used his status as a legal professional and authority on estate planning to lure investors into a false sense of security,” said Katherine Addleman, Director of the SEC’s Atlanta Regional Office. “The SEC will continue to take swift action against attorneys and other individuals who abuse their position and status to defraud investors.”
According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Copeland perpetrated the scheme from at least 2004 to January 2009 through entities that he controlled. Copeland directed the unregistered offer and sale of promissory notes evidencing investor loans, and represented to investors that the loans were safe and secured by real estate. The notes were often collateralized by security deeds to which Copeland signed the names of fictitious persons.
The SEC’s complaint alleges violations of the registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. In addition to a permanent injunction against future violations, the SEC’s complaint also seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest and financial penalties.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, which has filed a parallel criminal action against Copeland.