The SEC announced today that Denis Georgiyevich Sotnikov, a Russian national, who resides in Hallandale Beach, Florida, is involved in an ongoing fraudulent scheme in which US investors, many of whom are older and using their retirement savings, are lured into buying fictitious Certificates of Deposit (CDs) at above market rates. The Complaint stated that Sotnikov targeted investors who were searching for CDs with high rates. These ads included links to phony and spoofed websites which falsely claimed that the firms offering the CDs were members of FINRA and the FDIC. The spoofed websites use domain names similar to the actual sites of legitimate financial institutions.
As a result of the intricate scheme, unsuspecting investors see advertising for the spoofed websites at the top of their search results when searching for CDs with attractive rates. After the potential investors visit the spoofed websites, they are directed to call a number to speak with an account executive impersonating a real registered representative, who instructs investors to wire funds to so-called clearing partners. In reality, these clearing partners are entities used by Sotnikov to launder and misappropriate investor funds.
According to the SEC, from November 2014 through March 2020, there were at least 24 websites spoofing actual financial firms and 8 fictitious financial firms that resulted in over $26 million in known investor losses. The investigation found that Sotnikov’s participation was essential to the fraudulent scheme. He organized and controlled all the entities involved as supposed clearing or offering firms which were created by Sotnikov to serve as conduits to receive wire transfers from duped investors in advancement of the fraudulent scheme.
The SEC’s complaint filed in federal court charged Sotnikov and the entities he controlled with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and Sotnikov with aiding and abetting those violations. The SEC is looking for permanent injunctive relief and the return of allegedly ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest and penalties. In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey today announced related criminal charges and are pursuing asset seizures.