July 30, 2013
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it filed a civil injunctive enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against AmeriFirst Management LLC (AML) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and its owners, John P. D’Onofrio of Fort Lauderdale, George E. Sarafianos of Lighthouse Point, Florida, and Scott D. Piccininni of Fort Lauderdale. The CFTC Complaint charges the Defendants with operating a precious metals scheme where the Defendants marketed illegal, off-exchange financed commodity transactions and fraudulently misrepresented the nature of those transactions.
According to the Complaint, filed on July 29, 2013, AML held itself out as a precious metals wholesaler and clearing firm, operating through a network of more than 30 precious metals dealers. As alleged, these dealers solicited retail customers to invest in financed precious metals transactions, where a customer gave a percentage deposit of the total value of the metal, typically 20%, and the dealer supposedly made a loan to the customer for the remaining 80%, supposedly sold the customer the total metal amount, and supposedly allocated the total metal amount at a depository to be held for the customer.
The Complaint alleges that AML created customer documents that represented that the dealer had in fact made such a loan and sold and allocated the total metal amount to the customer. However, these documents were false because the dealer never made a loan to the customer, nor did the dealer sell or allocate any metal to the customer, according to the Complaint. Further, the Complaint alleges that although there was no loan and no metal was allocated to the customer, AML charged the customer finance and storage fees.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 expanded the CFTC’s jurisdiction over transactions like these and requires that such transactions be executed on or subject to the rules of a board of trade, exchange, or commodity market, according to the Complaint. This new requirement took effect on July 16, 2011. The Complaint alleges that all of the Defendants’ financed commodity transactions took place after this date and were illegal. The Complaint also alleges that the Defendants defrauded customers in these financed commodity transactions.
In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks a permanent injunction from future violations of federal commodities laws, permanent registration and trading bans, restitution to defrauded customers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and civil monetary penalties.
The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff responsible for this action are David Chu, Mary Beth Spear, Eugene Smith, Patricia Gomersall, Ava Gould, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard Wagner.
CFTC’s Precious Metals Fraud Advisory
In January 2012, the CFTC issued a Precious Metals Consumer Fraud Advisory to alert customers to precious metals fraud. The Advisory states that the CFTC had seen an increase in the number of companies offering customers the opportunity to buy or invest in precious metals. The CFTC’s Advisory specifically warns that companies often fail to purchase any physical metals for their customers, instead the companies simply keep the customers’ funds. The Advisory further cautions consumers that leveraged commodity transactions are unlawful unless executed on a regulated exchange.
Last Updated: July 30, 2013