Release: 5157-06

For Release: February 7, 2006

US Commodity Futures Trading Commission Charges Florida Man And His Firm With Stealing $1.5 Million From Customers

CFTC Alleges That Defendant Lazaro Jose Rodriguez Solicited Customers By Fraudulently Promising Large Commodity Trading Profits, And Then Misappropriated Customer Funds To Buy Luxury Cars, Jewelry, And Personal Items

Universal Financial Holding Corporation Also Found Liable

Washington, D.C.— The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today the filing of an enforcement action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on February 3, 2006, against Miami, Florida resident Lazaro Jose Rodriguez, alleging fraud.

Specifically, the CFTC complaint alleges that, between March 2005 and January 2006, Rodriguez, doing business as The FIRM “Financial” and as Financial Investments Require Money – Financial Consultants, solicited and received approximately $1.5 million from at least 400 customers to trade commodity futures and options contracts. As part of those solicitations, Rodriguez allegedly made false promises guaranteeing large profits without risk. The complaint also alleges that as part of his fraudulent scheme, Rodriguez pretended to be an experienced commodities trader, which he was not. Rather than using customer funds to trade commodity futures and options, Rodriguez allegedly misappropriated the money and used it to purchase luxury cars, jewelry, and other personal items.

Federal Court Freezes Rodriguez’s Assets

Also on February 3, 2006, U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood of the Southern District of New York issued an order freezing the defendant’s assets and, among other things, enjoining the defendant from destroying, or denying CFTC representatives access to books and records.

The CFTC is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against Rodriguez, repayment to defrauded customers, the return of ill-gotten gains, monetary penalties for violations of the Commodity Exchange Act, and further remedial and ancillary relief.

The Commission appreciates the cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.

The following CFTC staff members are responsible for this case: Linda Peng, Michael C. McLaughlin, David W. MacGregor, Lenel Hickson, Jr., Stephen J. Obie, and Richard Wagner.

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The CFTC encourages members of the public to bring to our attention any suspicious activities involving futures or commodity options, including matters involving foreign currency (forex) investments or suspicious Internet websites.

You may contact the CFTC at 1-866-FON-CFTC (1-866-366-2382), visit us at our Customer Protection web page: (/cftc/cftccustomer.htm), or fill out our Internet Report Form identifying your concerns (/enf/enfform.htm).

In addition, the CFTC publishes a series of Consumer Advisories at /cftc/cftccustomer.htm#advisory alerting the public to warning signs of possible fraudulent activity and offering precautions individuals should take before committing funds.

Media Contacts
Alan Sobba

Dennis Holden

Last Updated: April 12, 2007