FLORIDA — AGAIN (BOCA RATON VIA NEW YORK): John A. Mattera, Purported Philanthropist, Arrested By Feds And Sued By SEC Amid Allegations He Set Up Scam Using Names Of Groupon And Facebook; Suspect Also Traded On Name Of Red Cross; Investigators Call Him A Recidivist Felon

John Mattera: Source: Mattera Foundation Nov. 2. 2011, news release

EDITOR’S NOTE: So, you recognize the power of the names of  Groupon and Facebook and want to trade on their magnetism to drive traffic to your purported “opportunity” — and you want to further sanitize your scheme by describing yourself as a philanthropist and trading on the name of a charity such as the American Red Cross?

And you perhaps want to give money from your scheme to your wife and your mother, a senior citizen?

What follows is a story about the allegations against John Mattera and some of his activities in Florida . . .

John A. Mattera of Boca Raton, Fla., pleaded guilty in 2003 to seven counts of grand theft in three separate Florida criminal cases, according to court records. Among other things, “Mattera stole $34,000 from two Florida investors by promising to provide them with shares of stock that Mattera falsely represented he owned,” the SEC said of the 2003 cases.

In 2009, the SEC charged Mattera “with fraudulently attempting to avoid registration requirements by backdating promissory notes to obtain improperly unrestricted shares of a company,” according to the agency.

And now Mattera, 50, has been sued civilly by the SEC and charged criminally by federal prosecutors in New York in yet another alleged scheme — this one involving claims that Mattera traded on the names of Groupon, Facebook and others in a scam that netted between $11 million and $12.6 million.

The SEC said it is seeking an emergency court order to freeze the assets of Mattera; John R. Arnold, 61, of Florida; Joseph Almazon, 22, of Hicksville, N.Y.; David E. Howard II, 32, of New York City;  Bradford Van Siclen, 43, of Montclair, N.J., and eight different business entities. (Ages in this paragraph approximate.)

Authorities said Mattera and “cohorts” duped investors into believing that they could convert shares in Mattera’s purported hedge fund — a company that happened to be pushed by “a web of registered and unregistered broker-dealers” — into shares of companies such as Groupon and Facebook in advance of the famous firms’ IPOs.

Both the SEC and federal prosecutors used descriptive verbs when describing what is alleged to be Mattera’s latest scam — a scam that allegedly involved a network of associates and a company with the high-sounding name of “The Praetorian Global Fund.”

(Emphasis added to SEC’s choice of verbs.)

“By conjuring up a seemingly prestigious hedge fund and touting the safety of an escrow agent, these men exploited investors’ desire to get an inside track on a wave of hyped future IPOs,” said George S. Canellos, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “Even as investors believed their funds were sitting safely in escrow accounts, Mattera plundered those accounts to bankroll a lifestyle of private jets, luxury cars, and fine art.”

(Emphasis added to U.S. Attorney’s choice of verbs and other descriptors.)

“As alleged, John Mattera duped investors into believing they had bought rights to shares of coveted stock in Facebook and other highly visible and attractive companies which had not yet gone public,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the the Southern District of New York. “As the complaint describes, Mattera told elaborate lies about stock he did not own and about how he would keep investors’ money safe in escrow accounts. Instead, Mattera took the investors’ money to fund his own extravagant lifestyle. With today’s charges, his charade is exposed and he will be held to account for his alleged crimes.”

Named relief defendants in the SEC case are Ann Mattera, Mattera’s 71-year-old mother, and Lan T. Phan, Mattera’s wife. Phan, 43, is a physician and yoga practitioner. Authorities say the women, who are not charged with an offense, were beneficiaries of the scheme. (Ages in this paragraph approximate.)

The publicity surrounding John Mattera’s alleged business misdeeds has caused embarrassment for a local chapter of the American Red Cross in South Florida. John Mattera, who is linked on the web to numerous companies or philanthropic organizations even in the wake of previous lawsuits and criminal charges against him, was on the Red Cross board in Broward County until last month, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

On Nov. 2, just days before the SEC and the Feds came knocking, John Mattera was quoted in this news release about an entity known as the Mattera Foundation, which purported to look “to support those in need” by making it easier for them to find grant funding.

“John Mattera hopes that organizations across South Florida will use the new grant application tool to contact The Mattera Foundation and secure funding for their causes,” the news release read in part.

On March 24, 2011, meanwhile, John Mattera was quoted in this news release about a Red Cross golf tournament sponsored by the Mattera Foundation.

From March 2011 news release by the Mattera Foundation.

“Investor and American Red Cross board member John Mattera announced today that his eponymous The Mattera Foundation will sponsor the upcoming American Red Cross Golf Tournament,” the release read in part. “The tournament will be held at the Inverrary Country Club on April 1, and all proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross, South Florida Region.”

It was not immediately clear if Mattera plowed investors’ money into charities. What is clear, according to federal prosecutors, is that he had high appetites and caused investors to believe their money was going into escrow accounts.

“Based on the misrepresentations of Mattera and others, investors sent more than $11 million into escrow accounts maintained at a Florida bank,” prosecutors charged. “Mattera reassured investors that their money would be held in the escrow accounts until either the offering was completed or another triggering event took place, at which time the investors would receive their ownership interest in the particular special purpose entity. However, instead of maintaining the investor money in the escrow accounts as he promised, Mattera caused the vast majority of it to be transferred to other entities with which he was associated. Ultimately, Mattera misappropriated more than $11 million of investor money and spent nearly $4 million on personal items for his family and himself, such as expensive jewelry, interior decorating and luxury cars.”

A veteran IRS agent also used strong language when describing Mattera’s latest alleged fraud scheme. (Emphasis added.)

“The allegations against Mr. Mattera show that the appearance of success can be a tangled web of financial lies,” said Victor W. Lessoff, special agent-in-charge of the Newark (N.J.) Field Office of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (IRS-CI).

Such descriptions also surfaced in the epic Scott Rothstein Ponzi caper, which also operated in South Florida.

Read SEC news release on John Mattera’s latest alleged scam.

Read the SEC complaint.

Read Feds’ news release on John Mattera’s latest alleged scam.

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2 Responses to “FLORIDA — AGAIN (BOCA RATON VIA NEW YORK): John A. Mattera, Purported Philanthropist, Arrested By Feds And Sued By SEC Amid Allegations He Set Up Scam Using Names Of Groupon And Facebook; Suspect Also Traded On Name Of Red Cross; Investigators Call Him A Recidivist Felon”

  1. I’m sure the American Red Cross is scratching their heads wondering who is next to use their name for criminal activities. The Mattera Foundation and the Asteria Foundation all playing off their name that is known about.

    Unlike the Asteria Foundation, where the American Red Cross cannot find any record of receiving donations from Club Asteria as claimed, at least the Mattera Foundation sponsored a golf tournament; and he was on the board of the local office. Of course they will now have to find a new sponsor and board member, but they have to be wondering who is next to use their good name and using it for criminal activities.

    I think it is time for the American Red Cross to do a thorough internal exam of all their offices to make sure their donors, foundations, etc. are legitimate and not crooks playing on their good name. You can almost bet there are others that just have not been exposed yet.

    It is one of the rules of the scammers playbook to wrap themselves around a charitable cause to lure more people into their Ponzi/scam.

  2. I thought I was John Matter’s wife! We owned a $4 million house together. Who’s this “other” woman?