I have been a stock fraud attorney for a long time, and I’ve worked in the industry for an even longer period of time. I made the move from being a stock broker because I could no longer stomach the abuses that I saw brokers/dealers perpetrate against investors. Witnessing these illicit actions were the impetus that made me choose to go to work for a regulatory agency because I feel like sometimes, the good guys can win.
Such is the case with recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into the actions of a former stock promoter, Robert J. Vitale. It is reprehensible enough that Vitale defrauded many investors in a Florida real estate scam, and it is unconscionable that many of those that he defrauded were elderly clients. What is most appalling is that he committed these acts of fraud years after he was permanently barred from dealing in securities by both the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
According to a recent complaint filed by the SEC in U. S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, Vitale’s acts of fraud included selling unregistered securities while representing himself as a registered broker/dealer. He had, in fact, been suspended as a registered broker/dealer in 2007 for failing to comply with an arbitration award and failed to comply with a request for information about the status of compliance. This compliance failure stemmed from a 2005 regulatory action in which he was implicated in a “pump-and-dump” scheme. He and brokers in his charge purchased stocks at an extremely low price and then in turn, sold them to retail customers at an inflated price. At that time, he was barred from association with any firm affiliated with National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) which has since become FINRA.
Vitale told his investors that the reason for his success was his “great honesty and integrity,” yet the SEC’s investigation revealed a man of somewhat less character. In this most recent regulatory action, Vitale and his firm, Realty Acquisitions & Trust, Inc., told investors that their investments in a Florida real estate enterprise were 100% protected, which they were not. Additionally, he also misrepresented his educational background by stating that he had a business degree from Notre Dame when he had never actually attended university.
As I said, sometimes the good guy win – Vitale is currently serving a two-year prison term for deceiving SEC investigators. In September 2013, he was convicted for this deception and for obstruction of justice by impeding the SEC investigation that brought about this most recent round of charges. It is the goal of the SEC to have it mandated that Vitale return the funds it alleges he scammed from investors, plus interest and penalties, as well have a permanent injunction against him. In this action, the SEC also named Coral Springs Investment Group, Inc. as a relief defendant in the belief that this company retains assets that were gleaned from Vitale’s victims.
“Vitale hid the truth from investors just as he tried to hide his assets during our investigation,” said Stephen L. Cohen, associate director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “When individuals barred from the industry continue their wrongdoing, we pursue them aggressively and seek to return their ill-gotten gains to investors.”
If you feel like you have suffered financial losses as a result of the fraud committed by Robert, J. Vitale or Realty Acquisitions & Trust, Inc., please call us at the Blum Law Group at 1-877-STOCK-LAW for a free consultation.