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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Founder Of Meridian Capital Asset Management Charged With Scheme To Defraud Investors

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the arrest and unsealing of a complaint charging JOHN GERACI with investment adviser fraud, securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud clients of his company, Meridian Capital Asset Management.  GERACI caused two clients (“Victim-1” and “Victim-2”) to invest in a hedge fund called the Meridian Matrix Long Short Fund (the “Meridian Matrix Fund”).  Between in or about December 2015 and November 2016, GERACI provided fictitious account statements and updates to Victim-1 and Victim-2, telling them that their investment was worth millions when, in reality, GERACI knew that large portions of it had been stolen by the Meridian Matrix Fund’s administrator.  GERACI eventually liquidated the Meridian Matrix Fund and misappropriated significant portions of the remaining funds.  Although he had recovered over $1 million of Victim-1 and Victim-2’s investment, GERACI falsely told them that their entire investment had been lost, and improperly used their money to pay his own personal and business expenses.

In a separate action, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed civil charges against GERACI.  

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, when John Geraci realized that Nicholas Mitsakos was a con artist, he withheld this fact from investors he had solicited for the purportedly high-yield fund run by Mitsakos.  Geraci allegedly concealed Mitsakos’s fraud because it was lucrative for him.  Mitsakos is now a convicted felon in this district, and Geraci faces prosecution for his alleged crimes.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court:[1]

JOHN GERACI was the principal and founder of a company called Meridian Capital Asset Management, which provided investment advice to clients.  In or about February 2015, GERACI was introduced to another individual, Nicholas Mitsakos, who purported to operate a hedge fund called Matrix Capital (“Matrix”).  Mitsakos told GERACI that Matrix had tens of millions of dollars under management and had achieved annual returns between 19.4% and 66.3% from 2012 to 2014.  GERACI and Mitsakos subsequently entered into an arrangement whereby GERACI would raise money for Mitsakos; Mitsakos would manage that money through a new vehicle, the Meridian Matrix Fund; and GERACI and Mitsakos would then split any fees that the Meridian Matrix Fund generated.  As part of this arrangement, GERACI convinced Victim-1 and Victim-2 to invest approximately $2 million in the Meridian Matrix Fund, in large part by relying on Mitsakos’s claims about his supposed fund’s assets under management and performance returns.

In or about December 2015, however, GERACI learned that Mitsakos had only invested approximately $1.2 million of Victim-1 and Victim-2’s investment, and had misappropriated significant portions of the remaining money.  GERACI also learned that Mitsakos never had any actual assets under management, and that his performance returns were accordingly fictitious and misleading.  Nonetheless, GERACI never told Victim-1 or Victim-2 that their investment was in jeopardy or had been solicited with misleading information.  To the contrary, GERACI sent Victim-1 and Victim-2 updates that hid Mitsaskos’s misappropriation and falsely claimed that their investment had appreciated.  GERACI sent these fictitious updates even after Mitsakos sustained significant trading losses and even after GERACI himself had liquidated the Meridian Matrix Fund’s trading positions in or about June 2016. 

In or about August 2016, Mitsakos was charged in this District with securities fraud and other offenses.  In or about September 2016, GERACI changed course: instead of providing fictitious account updates to Victim-1 and Victim-2, GERACI told them, in substance and in part, that their entire investment had been wiped out through Mitsakos’s fraud.  GERACI did this even though he had ultimately received approximately $1.1 million of Victim-1 and Victim-2’s investment back from Mitsakos after liquidating the Meridian Matrix Fund’s trading positions.  Rather than returning this amount to Victim-1 and Victim-2, GERACI used it to pay for his own personal and business expenses, including, for example, payments on a BMW automobile, a gym membership, gas, groceries, travel expenses, and his cellphone bill. 

In addition to sending false account updates to Victim-1 and Victim-2 even after learning that Mitsakos had lied about his fund’s assets and performance and that Mitsakos had stolen significant portions of Victim-1 and Victim-2’s investment, GERACI continued to try to raise money for the Meridian Matrix Fund.  In attempting to do so, moreover, GERACI relied on the same representations about Matrix’s assets and performance that he knew to be false.    

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GERACI, 61, of Miami, Florida, is charged with one count of investment adviser fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of conspiring to commit securities and wire fraud. The investment adviser fraud and conspiracy charges each carry a maximum term of five years in prison.  The securities and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison.  The charges also carry a maximum fine of $5 million, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.  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.           

Mr. Berman praised the exceptional work of the Office’s Special Agent criminal investigators and thanked the SEC for its assistance. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant United States Attorney Robert Allen is in charge of the prosecution.  

The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 
18-240
Updated July 17, 2018