The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against a Florida-based company, its CEO, and its top sales agent accused of conducting a boiler room scheme that solicits investments in a business purportedly facilitating online and cell phone sales of lottery tickets in various states.
The SEC has obtained an emergency court order freezing the assets of LottoNet Operating Corp., David Gray, and Joseph A. Vitale. The SEC's complaint alleges that they misrepresented to investors that their money would be used to develop and market LottoNet and that sales agents did not receive commissions. At least 35 percent of investor proceeds were allegedly paid to boiler room sales agents in the form of commissions, and LottoNet allegedly siphoned investor funds for personal spending on clothing, wedding-related expenses, and strip clubs.
According to the SEC's complaint, which was unsealed in federal court today, among the pitches used in sales agent scripts prepared for cold calls to investors was "you’re looking at a monthly dividend payout of $8,500 every month" on a $25,000 investment if LottoNet reaches 1 percent market share. The scripts also allegedly touted the purported safety of the investment, noting a 60 percent return as a "worst case" scenario if the company was ever sold. The SEC alleges that while LottoNet has raised a total of approximately $4.8 million from investors, the company had only paid $10,525.43 in investment returns to investors through the end of February. Sales agents allegedly have been paid more than $1.1 million out of investor funds.
The SEC's complaint further alleges that Vitale, who personally raised at least $1.4 million from investors, used the alias Donovan Kelly in an apparent attempt to hide from investors that he is permanently barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
"As alleged in our complaint, little did investors know they were being duped with a script based on misrepresentations while investor funds were being spent in strip clubs," said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office.
The SEC's investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted in the Miami office by Kate Zoladz, Gary Miller, and Allen J. Genaldi. The case is being supervised by Elisha L. Frank and the litigation is being led by Amie Riggle Berlin. The SEC appreciates the assistance of FINRA.