The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday barred Ivan Acevedo, a former sales manager at Woodbridge Group of Companies, from the securities industry. Acevedo pleaded guilty in July 2021 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He’s currently in federal custody.
Acevedo, 44, along with co-defendant and fellow Los Angeles resident Dane Roseman, pleaded guilty to their participation in what prosecutors in Miami said was a $1.3 billion Ponzi scheme that caused more than 7,000 people to suffer financial losses, many of them elderly clients. Acevedo, Roseman and Woodbridge’s owner, Robert H. Shapiro, were arrested in April 2019.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Acevedo began work for Woodbridge as a sales agent in 2009, and was a sales manager from 2013 to 2014. In their capacities, Roseman and Acevedo sold Woodbridge securities using high-pressure tactics, promoting them as low-risk investments. Woodbridge’s main business model, said prosecutors, was to give investors promissory notes that the company said were tied to real properties owned by third parties.
“The Woodbridge sales operation controlled by Shapiro, managed by Acevedo then Roseman, functioned as a ‘phone room’ and featured high-pressure sales tactics, deception, and manipulation,” said the U.S. Attorney in its July announcement of the guilty pleas. “Woodbridge promoted investments through telephone and in-person conversations, emails and website displays. The scheme also involved misrepresentations to financial planners who helped Woodbridge to sell investments to potential investors.
“Despite Woodbridge’s claims that these investments would be backed by properties owned by third parties, in fact, to the extent that the properties existed, they were secretly owned by Shapiro. Unbeknownst to investors, Shapiro created and controlled a network of more than 270 limited liability companies, which he used to acquire and sell the properties pitched to investors.”
Shapiro began to use Ponzi-type payments to early investors when his real estate portfolio failed to generate sufficient cash flow, prosecutors said, and these payments amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars put up by new investors to repay the purported returns to those who’d invested earlier. The prosecutors said that Shapiro and his co-conspirators persuaded more than 9,000 investors to put up $1.29 billion. Shapiro was later sentenced in Miami to 25 years in prison for his role in the scheme.
“After Acevedo’s termination of employment with Woodbridge, he acted as an external sales agent for Woodbridge and recruited additional Woodbridge investors through his company iAlt Enhanced Income Portfolio LLC,” the SEC said in its most recent filing barring him from the securities industry. “Acevedo acted as a broker and a person associated with a broker, but has never been registered with the commission as a broker-dealer or associated with a commission registered broker-dealer.”
The SEC has barred Acevedo from association with any broker, dealer, investment advisor, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent or nationally recognized statistical rating organization. He’s also barred from participating in penny stock offerings or acting “as a promoter, finder, consultant, agent or other person who engages in activities with a broker, dealer or issuer for purposes of the issuance or trading in any penny stock, or inducing or attempting to induce the purchase or sale of any penny stock.”