Clawback Actions Begin In Trevor Cook Case; Receiver Says Millions Of Dollars Of ‘Preferential Transfers’ To Investors Occurred After SEC Paid ‘Surprise’ Visit
EDITOR’S NOTE: R.J. Zayed, the court-appointed receiver in the Ponzi and Forex fraud case brought by the SEC and CFTC against Trevor Cook and Pat Kiley, has said many investors were made destitute by the scheme. Not all investors lost their money, however. Yesterday Zayed filed petitions to claw back millions of dollars in “preferential transfers”Â made to investors as the scheme allegedly was unraveling.
Zayed, who is seeking to make victims as whole as possible, also filed actions against two banks to recover mortgage payments made by CookÂ on two Minnesota properties. All in all, the clawback actions are targeted at 22 individuals or entities on the legal theory they are not entitled to benefit from proceeds that flowed from Cook’s illegal scheme. The precise number entities or people who allegedly received tainted money is not known. One of the investors named in the clawback actions was the grandmother of a Cook employee, according to court filings.
Chief U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis has given Zayed the authority to pursue “any third party recipient of asset transfers from Cook or any named Receivership entity,” meaning more clawback actions could be in the offing as the probe by the receivership continues.
Here, now, the clawback story . . .
Acknowledged Ponzi swindler Trevor Cook knew in 2008 that Crown Forex S.A., a Swiss entity in which the CFTC alleged Cook held a majority ownership stake, “was insolvent and incapable of paying its investors,” according to new petitions filed by the court-appointed receiver in the case.
And Cook also knew that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) was asking questions as early as April 2009. “No later” than May 2009, according to receiver R.J. Zayed, Cook knew Swiss regulators had placed Crown Forex S.A. in “liquidation.”
On June 22, 2009, according to Zayed, “the SEC conducted a surprise investigation of the scheme’s headquarters and personally served Cook with a subpoena.”
Up to six SEC attorneys and accountants were poking around in Minneapolis for five days in June 2009. The clamor surrounding the scheme set in motion a series of events in which certain investors with links to Clifford Berg, a carpet salesman and Cook’s father-in-law, suddenly began to receive back their money, according to court filings.
Neither Berg nor the investors has been accused of wrongdoing. Events in the case demonstrate the risks that confront both investors and individuals who drive business to Ponzi schemes and other forms of investment fraud. Neither Ponzi principal nor interest is safe because the money comes at the expense of other investors, not as a result of legitimate commerce. Zayed is seeking to force Berg, his wife and the investors to return money traced to the scheme. The Bergs already have agreed to return $948,848.36.
Clifford Berg worked as a Cook recruiter and brought investors’ money into the scheme, according to court filings. The Bergs also were investors.
One of Cook’s investors is believed to be the husband of Berg’s dental hygienist, who learned of the purportedly profitable trading program from Berg. Other investors are believed to have known Berg from the carpet business, according to Zayed.
On June 29, seven days after the SEC appeared unannounced in Minneapolis, the investor married to the dental hygienist received two checks totaling $916,570 from the scheme, according to court filings. The investor had placed $785,162.44 in the program and did not complete paperwork for the withdrawal.
Some of the investors received calls from Berg. One of the investors placed $147,233 in the program. Although he did not request a withdrawal, he received a check for $360,700 on June 29, 2009, a week after the SEC appeared, according to Zayed.
Another investor believed to be an acquaintance of Berg placed $1,519,999.51 in the program. This investor called Cook “during the last week in June 2009” to inquire about investing money for his nephew, according to court filings.
Cook told the investor that there were problems in â€œanother partâ€ of the company, according to Zayed.
On the very next day, according to Zayed, the investor called Cook and requested withdrawal of his money, but did not complete paperwork for the withdrawal.
Regardless, Berg “delivered” a check to the investor at his place of business “[s]everal days later,” according to Zayed. The investor’s wife also was an investor and also received a check. Together the couple had placed more than $1.62 million in the program. The total paid to the couple exceeded their outlay, according to Zayed.
Another investor believed to be a Berg acquaintance from the carpet business placed $618,000 in the program. This investor — in late June 2009 — received a call from Berg during which Berg told him that there were “problems with the company,” according to Zayed.
“Berg also mentioned a possible investigation,” Zayed said.
The investor then went to Berg’s house to pick up a check for $747,500, according to Zayed. The check was dated June 29, a week after the SEC came to town. The investor then received three smaller checks, including a check for $2,200 drawn on a gold and bullion business, a check for $2,100 drawn on the bank account of Cook’s brother and a check for $2,100 drawn on the account of Oxford Global Partners LLC.
Another married couple believed to be acquaintances of Berg invested $243,500 in the program, according to Zayed. Although the husband and wife requested no withdrawals, Berg contacted them in late June 2009, telling the husband that accounts had been closed and that checks were in the mail, according to Zayed.
This couple received a total of $280,950 in three separate checks after the SEC came to Minneapolis, Zayed said.
On June 28, another Berg acquaintance received a call from Berg. This person had placed $375,000 in the program and did not complete paperwork for a withdrawal.
Berg told this investor that there was going to be â€œsome sort of investigation,â€ according to Zayed. The investor later received a check for $413,600. The check was dated June 29, seven days after the SEC appeared in Minneapolis.
Yet another investor believed to know Berg from the carpet business plowed $752,134 into the program, according to Zayed.
This investor had “received a call from Berg” and was toldÂ “that there was some kind of investigation” and that Berg had â€œcashed everyone out,â€ according to Zayed.
Berg then “delivered” two checks totaling $795,911.53 to the investor, according to Zayed.
It appears as though Berg’s supervisor also was an investor, and placed $250,000 in the program, according to Zayed. The grandmother of a Cook employee also was an investor, placing $102,000 in the program.
When the grandmother “saw a newspaper article regarding the Receivership Entities and mentioning lawsuits filed against them,” she called her grandsonÂ “and told him to get her money out,” according to Zayed.
Each of the investors named clawback targets “received payments preferentially over hundreds of other investors who were defrauded by Cook and unable to withdraw the money they had invested in the Trading Program,” Zayed said in court filings.