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SEC charges Oregon-based hedge fund manager over USD37m Ponzi scheme

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against a Portland, Oregon-based investment adviser who perpetrated a long-running Ponzi scheme that raised over USD37 million from more than 100 investors in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.

The SEC alleges that Yusaf Jawed used false marketing materials that boasted double-digit returns to lure people to invest their money into several hedge funds he managed.  He then improperly redirected their money into accounts he personally controlled.  As part of the scheme, Jawed created phony assets, sent bogus account statements to investors, and manufactured a sham buyout of the funds to make investors think their hedge fund interests would soon be redeemed.  Jawed misused investor money to pay off earlier investors, pay his own expenses and travel, and create the overall illusion of success and achievement to impress investors.  
“Jawed presented himself as a sophisticated and successful hedge fund manager when all the while he was brazenly stealing his investors’ money,” says Marc J Fagel, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. 

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Portland, Jawed managed a number of hedge funds through at least two companies he controlled: Grifphon Asset Management LLC and Grifphon Holdings LLC.  Jawed’s marketing materials claimed that the Grifphon funds earned double-digit returns year after year even as the S&P 500 Index declined.  For certain funds, Jawed also falsely claimed they would invest in publicly-traded securities and that their assets were maintained at reputable financial institutions. 
The SEC alleges that Jawed instead invested very little of the more than USD37 million that he raised from investors.  For one fund, 70 percent of the money raised was either paid in redemptions to investors in other funds, paid to finders, or merely transferred to accounts belonging to Grifphon Asset Management or other entities that Jawed controlled.  Jawed concealed the fraud by telling Grifphon’s bookkeepers that the money transfers represented purchases of offshore bonds – though in reality the purported investment was a sham entity supposedly managed by Jawed’s unemployed aunt who lives in Bangladesh.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Jawed further deceived investors as the funds were collapsing by telling them that independent third parties were buying the Grifphon funds’ alleged assets at a premium.  In truth, the so-called third-parties were sham entities originally formed by Grifphon and Jawed containing no assets, no income, and no ability to pay for the funds’ alleged assets.
The SEC’s complaint against Jawed additionally charges Robert Custis, an attorney who Jawed hired to assist him in the fraud.  Custis sent false and misleading statements to investors about the status of the purported purchase of the Grifphon funds’ assets.  Custis consistently misrepresented that this purchase was imminent and would result in investors’ investments being repaid at a profit. 
The SEC filed separate complaints against two others connected to Jawed’s scheme.  Those complaints allege that Jacques Nichols – a Portland-based attorney – falsely claimed to investors that an independent third party would pay tens of millions of dollars to buy the hedge funds’ alleged assets at a premium, and that Jawed’s associate, Lyman Bruhn, of Vancouver, Wash., ran a separate Ponzi scheme and induced investments through false claims he was investing in “blue chip” stocks. Nichols and Bruhn agreed to settle the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations by consenting to entry of permanent injunctions against violations of the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and other relief.  The SEC’s litigation continues against Jawed, the two Grifphon entities, and Custis, alleging multiple violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Kashya K Shei and Robert S Leach of the San Francisco Regional Office. The litigation is being led by Susan F LaMarca and Lloyd A Farnham. The SEC thanks the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services and its Division of Finance and Corporate Securities for their assistance in this matter.

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