For Release: February 19, 2009
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that it charged Marvin Cooper and his company Billion Coupons, Inc. (BCI), both of Honolulu, Hawaii, with operating a Ponzi scheme that involved more than 125 customers — all of whom are Deaf — in connection with commodity futures trading and foreign currency futures (forex) trading.
The CFTC alleges that since at least September 2007, Cooper and BCI solicited approximately $4.4 million from more than 125 Deaf American and Japanese individuals for the sole purported purpose of trading forex. Also, according to the complaint, while Cooper and BCI opened both forex and futures accounts with approximately $1.7 million of customer money, Cooper misappropriated more than $1.4 million of customer funds for personal use. Cooper allegedly used the misappropriated funds to purchase computer and electronic equipment, flying lessons, and a $1 million home. He also allegedly returned approximately $1.6 million to customers as purported “profits” and as commissions to employees and agents.
“This case is a clear example of affinity fraud: Cooper preyed upon the Deaf community to leverage and exploit the inherent trust within so that his scheme would prosper. The CFTC urges the public to be cautious with their investments even when opportunities are presented by those with whom they have an association,” said CFTC Acting Director of Enforcement Stephen J. Obie.
Cooper and BCI allegedly lured in customers with promises of 15 to 25 percent monthly returns, depending on the amount and size of the customer’s investment, while representing that the investment would be low risk and that the promised return was produced by their successful trading. Cooper and BCI, however, were running a Ponzi scheme since the purported “profits” paid to customers came from existing customers’ original principal and/or from money invested by subsequent customers.
Finally, the complaint alleges that to conceal and perpetuate their fraud, Cooper and BCI provided customers with false account statements representing that their accounts were increasing by as much as 25 percent, when, in fact, the accounts were collectively losing money every month.
Court Orders Freeze of Assets and Appoints Temporary Receiver
On February 18, 2009, the Honorable J. Michael Seabright of the United States District Court of Hawaii granted the CFTC’s request for emergency action by, among other things, freezing Cooper’s and BCI’s assets, granting immediate access to Cooper’s and BCI’s documents and appointing Barry Fisher as temporary receiver. Judge Seabright ordered Cooper and BCI to appear in court on March 2, 2009, at 9 a.m. for a preliminary injunction hearing. In the continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution, disgorgement, civil monetary penalties, and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws and against further trading.
The CFTC requests that all victims of Cooper’s and BCI’s actions contact the temporary receiver at (310) 557-1077.
The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC simultaneously filed a related emergency action against Cooper and BCI. The CFTC also wishes to thank the State of Hawaii, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Office of the Commissioner of Securities.
The following CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members are responsible for this case: Kenneth W. McCracken, Elizabeth Davis, Michael Loconte, Rick Glaser, and Richard Wagner.
R. David Gary
Last Updated: February 19, 2009