Stop us if you've heard this one before.
Authorities say a young financial impresario based in Williamson County has convinced clients to entrust millions of dollars to him, promising guaranteed high returns. He delivers on those promises for a while, but according to the regulators, it turns out he is doing so only by paying old investors with money from new investors — and using some of the supposed investment funds to show himself a pretty good time.
That may sound a bit like the Michael Park case, not to mention any of several other big-money frauds alleged to have transpired in Brentwood and Franklin over the past few years, but in fact a new name entered the local litigation lexicon yesterday when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against Aaron D. Vallett.
Vallett, 32, faces five civil counts of securities fraud in the SEC's lawsuit. Unlike Park and other alleged fraudsters, he has not been charged with any criminal offense.
Through his Brentwood firm, A.D. Vallett & Co. LLC, a state-registered investment adviser, Vallett raised three investment funds between September 2008 and April of this year, the SEC asserts. The securities offerings, which were not registered with state or federal agencies, are said to have brought in some $5.5 million from about 20 investors.
The legal complaint, filed in Nashville's U.S. District Court and available at this link, says Vallett told clients their money would go into real estate and other investments. "Vallett misrepresented how investor funds would be used," the SEC claims. "After Vallett deposited investor funds into the Vallett & Co. bank account, he used a significant portion to pay interest or redemptions to other investors."
In addition, the agency says, Vallett used investor funds "to pay personal expenses, such as country club dues, car payments, and the purchase of a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and miscellaneous business expenses, such as rent and payroll. He also paid approximately $320,000 to the Nashville Predators."
On its website, A.D. Vallett & Co. says it is the "exclusive investment services provider" of the Predators.
Last month, the Financial Institution Regulatory Authority paid a call on Vallett and examined his books. Its representative found that he had "apparently misrepresented the extent of the collateral for the secured notes issued in connection with the three offerings," the SEC asserts. As documentation, he furnished brokerage statements in his name showing some $4.8 million in assets.
But the inspectors soon figured out that the accounts belonged to advisory clients of Vallett's company and Sailer Financial Inc., an adviser located in Brentwood with which Vallett did business. "Vallett appears to have pasted his own name on some of the clients' statements," the lawsuit states.
In a separate filing, the SEC recounts a previous episode when Vallett faced regulatory scrutiny. In May and June 2008, FINRA and the State of Tennessee fined him a total of $6,500 and suspended him from the securities business for four months, accusing him of having engaged in "outside business activities" in 2006 without notifying his member firm.
Vallett's record as an investment adviser — which any prospective customer could have freely accessed online before doing business with him — tells of further trouble from the past. In 2006, it says, he resigned from Brentwood-based investment firm Cambridge Way Inc. while facing allegations of "misappropriation of proprietary material," "violation of acknowledged company policy and code of ethics," and "failure to pay premium share owed to firm."
His prior employers besides Cambridge Way include Synergy Investment Group LLC of Nashville and Brecek & Young Advisors Inc. of Folsom, Calif., according to FINRA records.
According to the complaint, Vallett's current firm places brokerage orders through Institutional Capital Management Inc., another Brentwood-based adviser, for Sailer Financial.
The legal action seeks "disgorgement... of all ill-gotten gains or unjust enrichment" as well as civil penalties. It also asked for an immediate temporary restraining order freezing all of Vallett's assets. Federal Judge Aleta Trauger imposed that order late Wednesday afternoon.
M. Graham Loomis and J. Alex Rue, Atlanta-based staff attorneys with the SEC, filed the lawsuit.
Reached this morning by telephone, Vallett referred inquiries to attorney Walter J. Skipper of the Milwaukee law firm Quarles & Brady LLP. Efforts to reach Skipper today have been unsuccessful.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS