Federal Court in South Carolina Orders Robert S. Leben and Amy L. Leben to Pay over $10 Million in Restitution and Penalties in CFTC Anti-Fraud Enforcement Action
Contact Person: Dennis Holden (202) 418-5088 & Steven Adamske (202) 418-5080
Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that Chief Judge Terry L. Wooten of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina entered a summary judgment Order against Defendants Robert S. Leben and Amy L. Leben of Columbia, South Carolina, in a CFTC enforcement action charging the Lebens with misappropriating pool participant funds and failing to register as commodity pool operators (see CFTC Press Release 6881-14). In addition, the CFTC Complaint charged Robert Leben with issuing false statements and fraudulently soliciting pool participants by guaranteeing returns and the safety of each pool participant’s principal investment. The Complaint also charged Amy Leben with improperly accepting and commingling pool participant funds.
The Court’s Order requires the Lebens to pay restitution to victims in the amount of $2,551,596, disgorgement in the amount of $109,787, and a civil monetary penalty in the amount of $7,654,788. The Order further imposes permanent trading and registration bans and prohibits the Lebens from violating the anti-fraud and registration provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations, as charged.
The CFTC’s Complaint had alleged that between August 2008 and March 12, 2014, the Lebens, by and through the commodity pool Structured Finance Group Corporation (SFG), fraudulently solicited and accepted at least $3.2 million from at least 12 members of the general public to trade commodity futures contracts through a pool; that the Lebens traded only a portion of the pool participant funds in futures accounts in the name of Amy Leben, as well as in the name of the pool; and that they sustained net losses for the majority of the period. The Court’s Order finds that the Lebens misappropriated at least $2 million of the pool participant investor funds for their personal use, while representing to investors that the money would be used by SFG to purchase U.S. Treasury debt obligations and commodities. According to the Court Order, the Lebens used the misappropriated funds to purchase a house, vacations, a pool, an irrigation system, a car, cosmetic surgery, as well as to provide funds to family members and to pay everyday living expenses.
The CFTC cautions that Orders requiring repayment of funds to victims may not result in the recovery of any money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.
Robert Leben Indicted on Criminal Charges, Ordered to Pay Restitution to Victims, and Sentenced to Prison
On December 16, 2014, Robert Leben was indicted on criminal charges arising from the same fraudulent conduct that was the subject of the CFTC’s action (see United States v. Robert S. Leben, No. 3:14-cr-858 (D.S.C.)). On October 8, 2015, Robert Leben pled guilty and on April 14, 2016, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution to victims of the fraud.
The CFTC appreciates the cooperation of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina in this matter.
The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Amanda Burks, Michael Loconte, Erica Bodin, Elizabeth Davis, and Rick Glaser.
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CFTC’s Commodity Pool Fraud Advisory
The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Commodity Pool Fraud Advisory, which warns customers about a type of fraud that involves individuals and firms, often unregistered, offering investments in commodity pools.
Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a Toll-Free Hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.