Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos of Montecito, California, has been arrested and faces a federal grand jury indictment for running two fraudulent investment schemes. Argyropoulos operated two Santa Barbara investment services firms – Prima Capital and Prima Ventures – and allegedly engaged in a social media fraud scheme that solicited investments in companies such as Facebook and Twitter.
Social Media Fraud Scheme Promised False Securities
According to the indictment, from October 2010 through October 2015, Argyropoulos solicited nearly $5 million from investors to purchase securities in social media companies, including pre-IPO shares of Facebook and Twitter. Instead of purchasing the stocks, Argyropoulos allegedly diverted investors’ funds for personal use, including day-trading in stocks unrelated to the promised investments and personal expenses, including his mortgage, car payments, and casino debts.
Argyropoulos faces six fraud charges for the social media fraud scheme.
Investment Fraud Scheme Extends to Real Estate
Argyropoulos also faces seven fraud charges for allegedly marketing investments in a fake estate settlement called the “Laurence Miles Trust.”
Argyropoulos marketed shares to investors in an investment known as the “Laurence Miles Giant Estate Settlement,” a trust that he told investors was worth up to $1 billion.
According to the indictment, Argyropoulos told investors that Trust’s beneficiary was an ill woman who was the heir to a large estate that was tied up in probate proceedings and money was needed to cover the heir’s medical expenses. Argyropoulos told investors that once the probate proceedings were finished the assets would become available for transfer and investors would receive a large return.
In fact, there was no such estate and no heir with large medical bills. Argyropoulos’ investors lost more than $760,000 in the scam, according to the indictment.
Argyropoulos Violates Prior Court Order
The indictment also includes eight counts of criminal contempt for violating a court order prohibiting Argyropoulos from selling securities.
The counts allege that the solicitation of investments in the Laurence Miles Trust violated the terms of an SEC injunction that prohibited Argyropoulos from acting as an unlicensed broker and selling fraudulent investments. He consented to that injunction in a suit brought by the SEC that was based on the social media investment fraud scheme.
Argyropoulos Facing 20 Years in Prison
If Argyropoulos is convicted of the 13 fraud charges in the indictment, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count. The eight contempt charges do not have a statutory maximum sentence.
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