March 19, 2014
CFTC Charges South Carolina Residents Robert S. and Amy L. Leben with Commodity Pool Fraud for the Operation of a Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme
Federal Court Issues Emergency Order Freezing Defendants’ Assets and Protecting Books and Records
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that, on March 14, 2014, Judge Terry L. Wooten of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued an emergency Order freezing assets under the control of Robert S. Leben and Amy L. Leben (Lebens) of Columbia, South Carolina, in connection with a commodity pool called Structured Finance Group Corporation (SFG). The Order also prohibits the Lebens from destroying books and records and allows the CFTC immediate access to those records.
This court’s emergency Order arises out of a CFTC enforcement action filed under seal on March 12, 2014, charging the Lebens with fraudulently soliciting and/or accepting at least $3.2 million from pool participants in connection with their operation of the SFG commodity pool from August 2008 to the present. The CFTC Complaint also charges the Lebens with misappropriating pool participant funds and failing to register with the CFTC as Commodity Pool Operators in connection with their operation of SFG. In addition, the complaint charges Amy Leben with improper operation of the pool.
The Lebens allegedly misappropriated at least $1.77 million for their personal use
According to the Complaint, the Lebens misappropriated at least $1.77 million of pool participant funds for their personal use, including to purchase their residence and a swimming pool, among other things. The Complaint also charges Robert Leben with fraudulently guaranteeing pool participants’ principal investment against risk of loss, guaranteeing annual returns of 14 percent, and bolstering these guarantees by issuing written false statements to pool participants. In addition, to perpetuate their fraud, the Lebens operated SFG as a Ponzi scheme through which they used pool participant funds to pay other pool participants a total of approximately $1 million as purported profits, according to the Complaint.
In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks a permanent injunction from future violations of federal commodities laws, permanent registration and trading bans, full restitution to defrauded pool participants, disgorgement of any ill-gotten gains, and civil monetary penalties.
The CFTC appreciates the cooperation of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina in this matter.
CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Amanda Harding, Elizabeth Davis, Michael Loconte, Erica Bodin, Richard Foelber, and Rick Glaser.
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CFTC’s Commodity Pool Fraud Advisory
The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Commodity Pool Fraud Advisory, which warns customers about a type of fraud that involves individuals and firms, often unregistered, offering investments in commodity pools.
Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a Toll-Free Hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.
Last Updated: March 19, 2014