Hagens Berman Blog

Whistleblower News: Investment Scams

by HB Whistleblower Legal Team

01/30/2018
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Drug firms shipped 20.8M pain pills to WV town with 2,900 people

Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the massive shipments of hydrocodone and oxycodone — two powerful painkillers — to the town of Williamson, in Mingo County, amid the panel’s inquiry into the role of drug distributors in the opioid epidemic.

“These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,” said committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., in a joint statement.

The panel recently sent letters to regional drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith, asking why the companies increased painkiller shipments and didn’t flag suspicious drug orders from pharmacies while overdose deaths were surging across West Virginia.

The letters outline high-volume shipments to pharmacies over consecutive days and huge spikes in pain pill numbers from year to year. Read more »

SEC halts one of the largest 'ICOs' ever as it wades deeper into the murky world of cryptocurrency offerings

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday it has obtained a court order to halt and freeze the assets of what is likely the largest initial coin offering ever.

The complaint was filed in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday and unsealed late Monday. The SEC said Dallas-based AriseBank "used social media, a celebrity endorsement, and other wide dissemination tactics to raise what it claims to be $600 million of its $1 billion goal in just two months."

The court approved an emergency asset freeze over AriseBank and its two co-founders. The SEC said that for the first time in connection to an ICO fraud, it has appointed a third-party custodian, or receiver, to secure the firm's cryptocurrency holdings. Those assets include bitcoin, litecoin, bitshares, dogecoin and bitUSD.

"The ICO is an illegal offering of securities because there is no registration filed or in effect with the SEC, nor is there an applicable exemption from registration," the complaint said. Read more »

SEC Freezes Crypto Assets of $600 Million Initial Coin Offering

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a court order freezing the assets of a Texas-based initial coin offering that claimed to have raised more than $600 million.

The order filed in federal court in Dallas halts AriseBank from raising any additional cash from investors, according to a statement from SEC Tuesday. The agency alleges Jared Rice, 29, illegally raised funds from individual investors beginning in November without registering with regulators, according to the complaint. Also accused is co-founder Stanley Ford, 45, who lives in Dubai.

The agency froze crypto assets including Bitcoin, dogecoin and litecoin among others and appointed a receiver to return investor cash. Read more »

2018 Will Be A Year Of Reckoning For Mobile App-Install Fraud

App-install fraud alone is estimated to have cost mobile marketers around $2 billion last year, and while it’s difficult to pin down exactly how much mobile ad fraud is happening across the entire ecosystem, upward of 40% of mobile app inventory is fraudulent (Marketing Science), and nearly a quarter of mobile ad networks have fraud levels over 20% (Tune).

As a result, some of the more sophisticated advertisers are scrutinizing their partners, and they don’t like what they see. Expect more lawsuits a la Uber, Fetch and Phunware as the year progresses.

But while lawsuits make good headlines, they won’t fix the root issue: The mobile performance industry is highly vulnerable to fraud and the only way to effect change is for everyone to get wise.  Read more »

Tucson Woman Is Indicted for Tax Fraud, Wire Fraud, ID Theft

Federal prosecutors say a Tucson woman has been indicted for tax fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

They say Clariece Burden-Stelly allegedly devised a scheme to obtain more than $28,000 in fraudulent federal income tax refunds by filing false returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

Prosecutors say that from January, 2012, through April, 2015, Burden-Stelly filed fraudulent tax returns using her name and Social Security numbers plus the names and numbers of others.

They say Burden-Stelly also submitted fictitious wage and tax statements to inflate income and deductions to obtain the fraudulent tax refunds.

The tax refunds were disbursed on prepaid cards or by check. Read more »

Jurors in ongoing Pilot Flying J fraud trial hear tales of betrayal, deceit

A tearful Sherry Blake told jurors Monday she feels like a woman “betrayed” by the former boss who had considered her more like a “work wife” than an executive assistant: former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood.

Blake, who remains employed at the truck stop giant, testified Monday in U.S. District Court that she spent years handling all kinds of professional and personal business for Hazelwood. She booked his trips, made out his daily schedule, filtered his email, handled his personal real estate development and sports team businesses, and even paid his monthly personal bills. Read more »

Online investment scams on the rise, financial watchdog warns

Britain’s financial watchdog has warned the public of the growing threat of online investment fraud, after finding investors lost tens of thousands of pounds a day on scams last year.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said unsuspecting consumers were being lured into buying fraudulent investments via social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Common schemes involved complex trades in binary options, foreign exchange or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Punters were attracted by adverts promising high returns or featuring images of expensive watches and cars, the watchdog said.

Fraudulent companies would then “distort prices”, tie people in with extreme pay-out clauses or even close accounts and refuse to give refunds.

Investors lost more than £87,000 a day on binary option scams alone last year, the FCA said. Read more »