Unlicensed New Jersey Investment Adviser Charged with Defrauding Clients Out of More than $2 Million
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Alexander S. Rowland, 29, of Penns Grove, NJ, was charged by Indictment with seven counts of mail fraud, 30 counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of investment adviser fraud, and two counts of money laundering related to a scam in which he purported to be an investment adviser and either stole or lost victims’ money, resulting in total losses of more than $2 million.
The Indictment alleges that Rowland, a former warehouse operator, started an investment company in July 2016 that he incorporated in New Jersey, called Roaring Investments, Inc., and which he operated out of his apartment. The defendant held himself out to potential investors as a licensed investment adviser who would invest their money in stocks and cryptocurrency, and promised them a minimum rate of return of 25%, with potential returns of 50% or higher. Through these and other misrepresentations, Rowland was able to dupe his victims into investing almost $3 million in Roaring Investments. Eventually, the defendant was able to move his company from his apartment in New Jersey into office space in Philadelphia.
According to the Indictment, despite telling investors that he was a licensed investment adviser, in reality Rowland did not hold any licenses to sell securities or offer investment advice. Further, the defendant invested only approximately $518,000 of the almost $3 million he obtained from his clients, and those investments lost more than $100,000. The remaining client funds (almost $2.5 million) were used by Rowland in a variety of ways that were never disclosed to his clients, including spending more than $1 million on himself by: taking large cash withdrawals; paying his own personal bills; buying luxury vehicles; paying for vacations and jewelry; paying for gym memberships; and buying more than $47,000 worth of firearms.
The Indictment also alleges that Rowland was able to deceive his clients into believing that their investments were safe and profitable through a variety of fraudulent means, including: (a) operating a “Ponzi” scheme by using new client funds to make payments to earlier clients who had invested with Roaring Investments, thereby tricking those earlier clients into believing that their investments were making money; (b) creating a website, “roaringinvestments.com,” through which clients could check their account balances and on which defendant Rowland posted false account balances for his clients; and (c) emailing false account statements to clients that listed their fictitious account balances and showed non-existent profits.
Finally, the Indictment alleges that the defendant received and ignored an August 2018 cease and desist letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities that instructed Roaring Investments to stop selling unregistered securities and for Rowland to stop serving as an unlicensed investment adviser. Instead, Rowland continued to solicit new investments from clients. All told, due to Rowland’s alleged fraudulent conduct, Roaring Investments’ clients lost more than $2,139,000.
“Honesty, integrity, and trust all play critical roles in the relationship between a financial adviser and a client,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Here, Rowland wasn’t even a legitimate advisor: he is an alleged con man who lived lavishly on his clients’ money – funds they expected him to invest responsibly. The damage done to victims of such fraud can be disastrous. I want to especially thank the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities for their substantial assistance with this case.”
Rowland faces a maximum sentence of 835 years in prison, a five-year period of supervised release, a fine of $15,345,987.58, and a $4,200 special assessment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.