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SEC Charges Florida Brokers with Defrauding Brazilian Public Pension Funds in Markup Scheme

The SEC charged Fabrizio Neves and Jose Luna, former brokers in Miami, with fraud for overcharging customers approximately $36 million by using undisclosed, excessive fees on structured notes transactions.  The SEC alleged that Neves conducted the scheme while working at LatAm Investments, LLC, a broker-dealer that is no longer in business.  The affected customers were two Brazilian public pension funds, and a Colombian institutional investor.

According to the complaint, from November 2006 to September 2009, Neves negotiated with several U.S. and European commercial banks to structure 12 notes on his customers’ behalf.  Neves, as the funds’ portfolio manager, was authorized to make all trading decisions on the funds’ behalf.  Instead of purchasing structured notes worth approximately $70 million, Neves engaged in a scheme that included trading the notes with one or more accounts in the names of offshore nominee entities that he and Luna controlled, to later buy the same notes at an excessive, baseless mark up price for their customers.  Respondents also altered the structured notes’ term sheets by whiting out or electronically cutting and pasting the markup amounts, over the actual price and trade information, and providing the forged documents to clients.  As a result, the Brazilian funds and the Colombian investor were charged markups as high as 67%, totaling approximately $36 million in overpaid, undisclosed, excessive fees.  Both Neves and Luna enjoyed inflated salaries and commissions stemming from their scheme.

The SEC also instituted an administrative proceeding against LatAm’s former president, Angelica Aguilera, alleging that she failed to reasonably supervise Neves and Luna.  The SEC said, “Neves lined his pockets with millions of dollars by charging customers exorbitant, fraudulent markups…Neves and Luna thought they could hide their scheme and evade regulators by using offshore nominee companies and forged documents, but they thought wrong.”

Without admitting or denying the charges, Luna has agreed to pay disgorgement of $923,704.85, prejudgment interest of $241,643.51, plus a penalty amount to be determined.