SEC Shuts Down $85 Million Ponzi Scheme and Obtains Asset Freeze
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2018-77
Washington D.C., May 1, 2018 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the unsealing of fraud charges against a Mississippi company and its principal who allegedly bilked at least 150 investors in an $85 million Ponzi scheme. The defendants agreed to permanent injunctions, an asset freeze, and expedited discovery.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Arthur Lamar Adams lied to investors by telling them that their money would be used by his company, Madison Timber Properties, LLC, to secure and harvest timber from various land owners located in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, and promised annual returns of 12-15%. But Madison Timber never obtained any harvesting rights. Instead, Adams allegedly forged deeds and cutting agreements as well as documents purportedly reflecting the value of the timber on the land. Adams also allegedly paid early investors with later investors’ funds and convinced investors to roll over their investments. According to the complaint, Adams used investors’ money for personal expenses and to develop an unrelated real estate project.
“Investors should be wary anytime they are promised high or consistently positive returns,” said Richard Best, Director of the SEC’s Atlanta Regional office. “We acted quickly in this case to protect the victims of the alleged Ponzi scheme by obtaining immediate injunctive relief and an asset freeze.”
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi today announced criminal charges against Adams.
The SEC’s complaint, filed under seal in federal court in Jackson, Mississippi on April 20, 2018 and unsealed today, charges Adams and Madison Timber Properties with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The court granted the SEC’s request for an asset freeze and permanently enjoined Madison Timber and Adams from violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and ordered Adams to surrender his passport. Adams and Madison Timber consented to the entry of the court order.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Krysta Cannon and Justin Delfino in the agency’s Atlanta office and is being supervised by Peter Diskin. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Shawn Murnahan and supervised by Graham Loomis. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.