Co-Founder Of Investment Fund Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy, Securities Fraud, Wire Fraud, And Investment Adviser Fraud Charges
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that JASON RHODES pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein to securities fraud, wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, and conspiracy charges in connection with his participation in a scheme to defraud approximately 25 investors in Sentinel Growth Fund Management, LLC (“Sentinel”), a hedge fund RHODES co-founded, out of approximately $19.6 million by lying to the investors and using investor funds for his own personal use and to make repayments to earlier investors in a Ponzi-like manner.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As he admitted in court today, Jason Rhodes solicited investors’ money with a promise to invest it in securities. Instead, he used it to line his own pockets and to pay off other investors who were demanding their money. Rhodes now faces significant time in federal prison for his admitted crimes.”
According to the Indictment and other Court filings:
Beginning in at least 2013 and through in or about December 2016, RHODES, together with his co-conspirators, solicited investments in Sentinel by falsely representing to investors that their funds would be used for legitimate, specified investment purposes, namely purchasing securities. In fact, RHODES failed to invest the investor monies as promised, but rather diverted investor funds to his own personal use and the personal use of his co-conspirators and, in a Ponzi-like manner, to make repayments to other investors who were demanding their money. Among other things, RHODES diverted investor funds to a trucking business operated by RHODES and his wife; to pay more than $1 million to settle an unrelated civil lawsuit filed against RHODES and one of his co-conspirators; and on other personal expenses including a resort stay in Dubai and a luxury time-share vacation club. Through this scheme, RHODES and his co-conspirators defrauded approximately 25 investors out of a total of approximately $19.6 million.
Among other fraudulent acts, RHODES and a co-conspirator falsified an account statement for an investor (“Investor-1”) to conceal the fact that RHODES and his co-conspirators had misappropriated most of the $4.2 million Investor-1 had invested in Sentinel. After Investor-1 discovered the fraudulent nature of the account statement, RHODES, working with others, obtained funds from yet another investor (“Investor-2”) in order to make payments to Investor-1. RHODES and his co-conspirators then, on multiple occasions, created fraudulent reports for Investor-2, falsely reflecting that Investor-2’s funds were invested with portfolio managers in Sentinel’s brokerage accounts and were earning returns. In truth and in fact, and as RHODES well knew, Investor-2’s funds had been almost entirely misappropriated upon their receipt to repay Investor-1, and were not being managed by portfolio managers on Sentinel’s platform.
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RHODES, 47, of Rowayton, Connecticut, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of investment adviser fraud. The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The securities fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The investment adviser fraud count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
RHODES is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Stein on April 6, 2020, at 2:30 p.m.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission for its cooperation and assistance in this investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elisha J. Kobre and Jared Lenow are in charge of the prosecution.
Jim Margolin, Nicholas Biase