The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against two Florida men for defrauding investors in a purported startup television network and production company by providing false information about its revenues and future prospects, including that former basketball star Michael Jordan planned to invest in the company.
The SEC alleges that Vision Broadcast Network’s then-CEO Erick Laszlo Mathe with assistance from consultant Ashif Jiwa raised at least $5.7 million in startup capital from approximately 100 investors nationwide through the sale of the company’s common stock and convertible debentures. Mathe and Jiwa misrepresented to investors that Vision Broadcast owned low-power television stations as well as 70 broadcast licenses to operate additional low power television stations estimated to be worth $400 million once the television stations became operational. Vision Broadcast meanwhile funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in investor funds to companies controlled by Mathe or Jiwa in the form of purported professional and consulting services that were never provided. Mathe and Jiwa also misused investor funds to pay personal and travel expenses unrelated to Vision Broadcast’s business.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania today announced criminal charges against Mathe and Jiwa. Vision Broadcast is now a dissolved company.
“Mathe and Jiwa deliberately misrepresented a company with little to no assets or revenues as a tremendous investment opportunity,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “They also improperly spent investors’ hard-earned money on their personal and travel expenses.”
According to the SEC’s complaint, Mathe lives in North Miami Beach and Jiwa in Miami Beach. They solicited investors from approximately August 2007 to February 2010, and the securities offering was not registered with the SEC as required under the federal securities laws. While attracting investors, Mathe and Jiwa falsely claimed that Michael Jordan was a prospective investor when in fact he had never told anyone he planned to invest in Vision Broadcast. Mathe and Jiwa also falsely told investors that they had a commitment from an institutional investor to invest $25 million in the company.
The SEC alleges that while they were misrepresenting key facts about Vision Broadcast, Mathe and Jiwa also contradicted representations they made to investors about the use of their funds. Together, Mathe and Jiwa received $459,000 in undisclosed commissions from the funds they raised for Vision Broadcast. They also received more than $1.3 million for purported professional or consulting services that they never provided the company. Vision Broadcast reimbursed one of Jiwa’s close relatives $425,000 in personal expenses and $84,000 in travel expenses incurred by Jiwa. Vision Broadcast also paid personal expenses for Mathe and Jiwa that included more than three thousand dollars on golf equipment, lease payments on their luxury cars totaling $47,529, and nearly $2,500 in costs related to Mathe’s boat.
The SEC’s complaint charges Mathe and Jiwa with violating Sections 5(a) and (c) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The complaint also charges Mathe with aiding and abetting violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5(b). The SEC seeks financial penalties, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, penny stock bars, officer-and-director bars, and permanent injunctions.
The SEC’s complaint also names a company affiliated with Jiwa called Bluemark Asset Management LLC as a relief defendant for the purposes of recovering investor funds that Vision Broadcast used to pay Bluemark for professional services that were never actually provided.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Andre J. Zamorano and Kathleen Strandell of the Miami Regional Office and supervised by Thierry Olivier Desmet. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Patrick R. Costello. The examination that led to the investigation was conducted by Brian Dyer, William Tudor, and George Franceschini, and supervised by Nicholas A. Monaco and John C. Mattimore of the Miami office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.