A Florida man and wife found their victims for a $35 million fraud at church, feds say
Miami Herald (FL)
When a Naples man attended his church, he saw pews filled with investment fraud targets, the Securities and Exchange Commission says.
And, an SEC complaint said, Brent Seaman ripped off $35 million from at least 60 of those people in what turned into a Ponzi scheme.
“Many of these investors were elderly, retired, and connected to a Naples church where Seaman was an active member,” the complaint filed in Miami federal court said.
READ MORE: A historic Overtown church, crushing debt and a fired pastor
Legally, Seaman, who was charged with Accanito Holdings and Accanito Equity companies, neither admits nor denies the complaint’s allegations. But Seaman has agreed to let a court decided how deep he’ll have to go into his wallet for disgorgement, prejudgment interest and a civil penalty.
Brent Seaman’s wife, Jana Seaman, agreed to pay $757,154 in disgorgement and interest. Valo Holdings Group, for which state records list Jana Seaman as the manager, will pay $668,240 in disgorgement and interest. The complaint against Brent Seaman says Valo loaned money to the Accanito Equity companies, got investor money from Seaman’s fraud and holds assets belonging to the Accanito Equity companies.
Neither Seaman has been in charged criminal court.
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Were too-good-to-be-true promises made about Accanito?
When Seaman filed for bankruptcy in 2014 (see below), court documents say his Accanito Capital Group had $98 in its bank account. State records say Seaman just birthed more companies, registering Accanito Holdings with the state on June 3, 2019, listing he and Naples’ Blake Cathey as managers. Seaman registered Accanito Equity later that month and would register Accanito Equity II, III, IV as well as Accanito Equity Capital I and II before November 2020.
Starting in June 2019, the SEC complaint said, Seaman went looking for other people’s money. The complaint said Seaman and the Accanito Equity companies told investors that not only was their investment safe, returns of 18% to 48% were “guaranteed” and money from investors would be used only to deal in commodities, currencies and to make technology and software investments.
“These representations were false,” the complaint said.
(Investment red flags: there’s no such thing as a “safe” investment and nobody can “guarantee” high percentage returns.)
The complaint said investors sent their money to Seaman companies Surge and Accanito Capital Group.
“The majority of the funds were used to trade currencies and invested in only one company,” the complaint said. “Mr. Seaman also misappropriated millions of investor funds for his own use, and used millions of additional investor funds to make Ponzi-like distributions to investors. While Mr. Seaman used some investor money to trade currencies (through Surge’s trading accounts), contrary to claims of double-digit returns, Mr. Seaman experienced significant trading losses.”
The scheme, the complaint said, lasted until September 2022.
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History repeating itself?
Online federal court records say on March 15, 2001, Brent Seaman pleaded guilty to wire fraud in Indianapolis federal court and was sentenced to 17 months in prison and $940,000 in restitution. The Federal Bureau of Prisons online inmate search says a Brent Seaman, now aged 49, was released from federal prison custody on July 17, 2002.
Some of the victims from his wire fraud case must have been among his creditors because the last entry on that court docket leads to the 2014 bankruptcy filed in Fort Myers federal court. Documents from that filing say Seaman lived in Naples and owed over $14 million in unsecured debt to a list of creditors that reaches 26 PDF pages.
The SEC’s current investigation of Seaman part of the Miami Regional Office’s Fraud Against Minority Groups Initiative. Andre Zamorano, Alise Johnson, and Mark Dee handled the investigation. Alise Johnson handled the SEC’s litigation.