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US Regulators SEC and CFTC fine fraudulent binary options marketers with record-setting fines of $70 million

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged the perpetrators behind the All In Publishing (AIP) binary options marketing scheme and fined them with more than $65 million so far. The CFTC labeled it a nationwide binary options fraud ring. In the latest court order in a SEC Complaint Timothy Atkinson, Jay Passerino, and their company All in Publishing LLC (AIP) with $61.5 million. In their complaints, both regulators accused several individuals and legal entities of marketing fraudulent binary options schemes to US customers producing some 68,000 victims. The AIP scheme produced and disseminated rags-to-riches videos to trick retirees and other retail investors into opening brokerage accounts and trading high-risk securities known as binary options.

The Perpetrators

The SEC and CFTC complaints charged several individuals and companies involved in the fraudulent All In Publishing (AIP) binary options marketing scheme. The charged individuals are Timothy Atkinson, Jay Passerino, Ronald Montano, Antonio Giacca, Travis Stephenson, Grayson Brookshire, Shmuel Pollen, Michael Wright, Martin Schranz, Willian E. Berry, and Justin Blake Barrett. The charged companies are All In Publishing, LLC, Gasher, Inc, GSD Master AG, Montano Enterprises, LLC, and Berry Mediaworks, LLC.

The AIP scheme and its attackers have been pursued by the US regulators SEC and CFTC since 2018. Both regulators filed respective complaints with different courts and fined the perpetrators.

The AIP Scheme to promote fraudulent binary options scams

The perpetrators operated a fraudulent affiliate marketing scheme (All In Publishing or AIP scheme) promoting and selling unregistered binary options brokers in exchange for a commission for each sale. They received between approximately $350 and $450 for every investor who viewed their materials and then opened and deposited money with a binary options scheme.

According to the CFTC, the AIP scheme conducted at 29 fraudulent binary options marketing campaigns in which they fraudulently solicited tens of millions of prospective customers to open and fund illegal, off-exchange binary options trading accounts. 

The AIP scheme campaigns included professional videos (see featured video) that touted a free software trading program running on autopilot that was supposedly capable of generating large profits for investors. These videos purported to show actual investors and real results, including people enjoying rich lifestyles achieved through binary options trading, and “live” demonstrations of people opening and funding accounts in “real-time” and seeing their trading balances increase automatically. The participants in the videos insisted to viewers that these were actual events.

Yet what was depicted was entirely fiction. Paid actors pretended to be recent millionaires; fake testimonials claimed falsely that there was great wealth made by investing in, and using the free trading software to purchase binary options, The fabricated photos showed only fictional account statements. The “live” demonstrations of profitable trading were shams.

The co-conspirators Shmuel Pollen and William E. Berry created the scripts and the videos for the marketing campaigns. Berry hired actors and rented luxury cars, mansions, private jets, and yachts that supported the illusion that the videos’ participants had accumulated great wealth by making the investment touted in the videos.

Running their AIP Scheme, the perpetrators defrauded some 68,000 US victims and violated several sections of the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodity Exchange Act. Both agencies filed several complaints against the AIP scheme and its perpetrators:

Victims, losses, and ill-gotten gains

Between October 2013 and November 2016, at least 68,000 persons opened and funded binary options trading accounts in connection with the Marketing Defendants’ campaigns. Generally, customers were required to deposit at least $250 initially.

These 68,000 clients’ initial deposits amounted to at least $17 million. The total amount of losses, however, was much higher as binary options scheme perpetrators continued to solicit investors to deposit additional funds.

Between October 2013 and June 2016, AIP’s financial accounts received $27,000,000 resulting from the Marketing Defendants’ affiliate marketing activities.

Between June 2013 and March 2017 William E. Berry and his company Berry Mediaworks produced at least sixty-four binary options sales videos. At least 100,000 customers opened binary options trading accounts in connection with the sixty-four VSLs Berry produced. According to the CFTC complaint, Berry earned $550,000 with his video.

The Fines

  • The final judgment in the respective SEC Complaint entered against Timothy Atkinson and All in Publishing LLC orders them to pay disgorgement of $27,208,987 in ill-gotten gains and $2,824,935 in pre-judgment interest. Furthermore, Atkinson has to pay a civil penalty of $27,208,987.
  • Atkinson’s co-conspirator Jay Passerino has to pay disgorgement of $1,894,991 in ill-gotten gains, $220,431 in prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty of $1,894,991.
  • The final judgment in the SEC Complaint against Michael Wright orders him to pay disgorgement of $266,353 and a penalty of $266,353.
  • Justin Blake Barrett, William E. Berry and his company Berry Mediaworks, Grayson Brookshire, Antonio Giacca, Shmuel Pollen, and Travis Stephenson have agreed to settle the SEC’s charges. Without admitting or denying the charges, they agreed to pay a combined total of $4.1 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. Pollen has agreed to pay a $42,500 penalty.
  • Antonio Giacca, who also worked as an affiliate marketer for Michael Shah and his Zilmil, Inc, settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $2,600,000
  • William E. Berry settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $550,000
  • Grayson Brookshire settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $481,099.90
  • Justin Blake Barret, the brother-in-law or Grayson Brookshire, settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $481,099.90
  • Shmuel Pollen aka Mike Williams settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $85,000
  • Travis Stephenson settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $89,000
  • Martin Schranz settled with the CFTC and agreed to pay disgorgement in the amount of $100,000

The final judgments provide that the disgorgement ordered against Atkinson, Passerino, and All In Publishing is to be offset by any disgorgement ordered against that defendant in the related case of Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Timothy Joseph Atkinson, et al., Case No. 1:18-cv-23992-JEM. As to Atkinson and Passerino, the final judgments entered also order that the civil penalty amount ordered against each would be reduced by any penalty amount ultimately paid by that defendant in the CFTC action.

The SEC Complaint against Timothy Atkinson

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