LOS ANGELES – A Montecito man pleaded guilty today to one felony count of wire fraud for defrauding investors by making false promises to use their money purchase shares of Facebook and Twitter prior to the companies’ initial public offerings.
Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos, 72, entered his plea before United States District Judge George Wu, who scheduled an August 26 sentencing hearing. Argyropoulos faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
As he admitted in his plea agreement, between October 2010 and October 2015, Argyropoulos operated Prima Ventures Corporation, a Santa Barbara-based financial services firm of which he was the president and sole shareholder. Argyropoulos represented to investors that he had access to “amazing” investment opportunities that would provide a high rate of return on any money invested, court papers state.
Argyropoulos misrepresented to investors that he would pool their money to purchase pre-initial public offering shares of companies such as Facebook and Twitter, according to court documents. Argyropoulos also falsely told investors he had access to good investment opportunities in companies such as Alibaba, Etsy, and E-Waste, the plea agreement states. As he admitted, Argyropoulos also represented that he and Prima were licensed brokers, when in truth, neither he nor Prima was licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory authority to sell securities. Instead of purchasing the stocks, Argyropoulos diverted the investor funds for other uses, such as day-trading in stocks unrelated to the promised investments, and personal expenses, such as landscaping, utilities, and his legal expenses arising out of an investigation into his activities conducted by the SEC, the plea agreement states.
Argyropoulos, who was charged in a 21-count federal grand jury indictment last year, admitted to causing at least $1,495,657 in uncompensated losses in connection with his schemes to defraud.
Argyropoulos also admitted to willfully violating a January 2015 court order in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was based on the fraudulent Facebook and Twitter scheme. The injunction prohibited Argyropoulos from selling fraudulent investments and acting as an unlicensed broker.
The case against Argyropoulos was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott Paetty and Adam Schleifer of the Major Frauds Section.