Man investors are unaware of the legal recourse available to them after losing money due to securities broker fraud and/or negligence. The truth is that investors who have lost money in this fashion may actually be entitled to damages. The law firm of Oakes & Fosher is interested in hearing from investors who believe this may be them.

Oakes & Fosher is presently investigating former securities broker Gary Forrest. According to his publicly available FINRA BrokerCheck report, Gary Forrest allegedly took part in selling fraudulent promissory notes related to the Woodbridge Group of Companies.

Gary Forrest was a Michigan based securities broker. He worked in the securities industry for thirty-one years. During his career, he was registered with three different securities firms.

His Registrations

  • Roney & Co. (1985-1988)
  • Raymond James & Associates (1998-2007)
  • American Portfolios Financial Services (2007-2016)

The Allegations

Woodbridge was what is known as a non-traded REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust. What this means is that it was a privately traded security not traded on any public securities exchanges. Due to their private nature, there is a great potential for oversight involved in the selling of non-traded REITs. Numerous securities brokers, like Gary Forrest, used this potential for oversight to their advantage when selling this unsuitable security to their customers.

It was determined by the Securities and Exchange Commission that Woodbridge spent years operating in plain sight as an enormous Ponzi scheme. The associated brokers, like Gary Forrest, sold promissory notes to customers that they claimed were backed by mortgages when, in fact, they were not.

To solicit these investments, these associated brokers told potential investors that they would receive an annual interest rate of 5 to 8 percent. This interest was supposed to be paid out in monthly installments to the investors. However, since the promissory notes were not actually backed by mortgages, there was very little profit being generated. Because of this, monthly dividends were being paid through money coming in through newer investors. This is how Ponzi schemes operate up until the entire thing collapses, which is, of course, what happened with Woodbridge when the company filed for bankruptcy.

Gary Forrest allegedly sold $826,986 worth of promissory notes to investors, some of whom were customers of his member firm. He received $25,905 in commissions through executing these transactions. Gary Forrest was allegedly denied permission to sell these REITs by his member firm; however, executed the transactions despite being forbade to. Due these alleged actions, Gary Forrest was fined $5,000, forced to repay the entire $25,905 in disgorgement, and suspended from acting as a securities broker in any fashion for a period of ten months.

Non-Traded REITs

Non-Traded Real Estate Investment Trusts, also known as non-traded REITs, are privately traded securities. They are not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and do not trade on any public securities exchanges. Because of this, there is a great potential for oversight when dealing in these products. Many securities brokers, like Gary Forrest, use this potential for oversight to their advantage when trying to get investors to purchase them. This is because it gives them the opportunity to misrepresent these products as good investments.

The truth is that non-traded REITs are highly speculative and illiquid securities that are only suitable for a select group of “accredited” investors. Despite this, many securities brokers continue to push these products unto unsuspecting investors who do not qualify as “accredited.” This is because they receive excessively high commissions as high as 8 percent when trading these products. When an investor’s principal investment is lowered this significantly, it becomes almost impossible for them to see a profit under anything besides booming market conditions.

Ponzi Schemes

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment scheme instituted by a securities broker, or group of brokers. It begins by an individual soliciting funds from investors. The investors have usually been given a clear plan of how their money is going to be invested. However, instead of investing the funds as they claimed they would, the securities broker, or group of brokers, will divert the funds somewhere else. To give the appearance that the invested funds are generating growth, the perpetrating party will provide investors with falsified information about how their investment is doing.

However, in order to pay promised dividends, or to buy out investors looking to liquidate their shares, money needs to be coming in from somewhere. Thus, the perpetrating party will solicit funds from a new round of investors in order to pay proceeds to the earlier ones. This cycle continues until the entire operation collapses–as it did for Woodbridge.

Oakes & Fosher Can Help

Oakes & Fosher dedicates its entire legal practice to helping investors across the nation. If you, or someone you know, have lost money investing with Gary Forrest, please contact Oakes & Fosher for a free and private consultation.