Jason D. Lazarus Charged By SEC With Fraudulent Operation Of Special Needs Pooled Trusts
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges against Synergy Settlement Services, Inc., CEO Jason D. Lazarus, Esq., both based in Orlando, FL, and President Anthony F. Prieto, Jr. of Tampa, FL, for allegedly defrauding individuals with disabilities into believing that the individuals were placing their funds in a pooled trust managed by a non-profit association. According to the SEC’s charges, the defendants instead used a non-profit trustee as a shell company to profit from disabled personal injury victims.
The CEO & President of Synergy Settlement Services, Inc., Jason D. Lazarus, has been allegedly defrauding & misleading disabled individuals into believing their funds were being placed in a trust managed by a non-profit association.
The SEC alleges that Lazarus and Prieto formed the Foundation for Those with Special Needs, Inc. as a non-profit company to “assist personal injury victims with special needs.” The defendants, however, concealed from the beneficiaries, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Administration that they diverted at least $775,000 in trustee and joinder fees directly from the beneficiaries’ accounts to their for-profit business, Synergy. The SEC also alleges the defendants improperly used funds from deceased beneficiaries’ accounts to reimburse themselves, sponsor events and parties, and promote Synergy’s for-profit business. Synergy, Lazarus, and Prieto allegedly also did not tell beneficiaries they were investing beneficiaries’ money in a certain class of mutual fund that doubled the fees the beneficiaries were told they were paying.
The SEC’s complaint charges Synergy, the Foundation, Lazarus, Prieto, and Special Needs Law Firm with violating the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint also charges Synergy, Lazarus, and Prieto with violating the antifraud provisions of Section 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder, and the registration provisions of Section 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest against all defendants, and civil money penalties against all defendants except the Foundation.
The SEC additionally charged registered investment adviser True Link Financial Advisors, LLC, headquartered in San Francisco, CA, and its CEO, Kai H. Stinchcombe of Healdsburg, CA, in their role as investment and asset manager for the pooled trusts. True Link and Stinchcombe agreed to settle their case in a separate cease-and-desist proceeding without admitting or denying the findings that they caused certain violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. True Link and Stinchcombe agreed to pay $200,000 and $20,000, respectively, in civil money penalties.
The SEC’s investigation is ongoing and being conducted by Jeffrey Cook and Jordan Cortez. The case is being supervised by Eric Busto and Glenn Gordon, and the SEC’s litigation will be led by Robert Levenson and Alice Sum under the supervision of Teresa Verges.
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Provided by SEC.gov