Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

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Santa Barbara County Man Arrested on Federal Charges that Allege Investment Fraud Schemes, One of Which Promised Twitter Stock

Source: Department of Justice

A Montecito resident has been arrested pursuant to a federal grand jury indictment that accuses him of running two fraudulent investment schemes and violating a court order prohibiting him from selling securities.

Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos, 71, was arrested at his office in Santa Barbara Wednesday morning by federal agents.

At his arraignment Wednesday afternoon in United States District Court, Argyropoulos pleaded not guilty, was ordered released on a $300,000 bond, and was ordered to stand trial on March 20.

According to the 21-count indictment unsealed after his arrest, Argyropoulos operated two Santa Barbara investment services firms – Prima Capital and Prima Ventures – and engaged in two fraudulent schemes by soliciting investments in companies such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as investments in a fictitious estate settlement.

In the first alleged scheme, Argyropoulos faces six fraud charges related to false promises to use investor funds to purchase securities, including pre-IPO shares of Facebook and Twitter. Instead of purchasing the stocks, Argyropoulos allegedly diverted the investor funds for other uses, such as day-trading in stocks unrelated to the promised investments and personal expenses, such as his mortgage, car payments and casino debts. According to the indictment, from October 2010 through October 2015, Argyropoulos solicited $4,947,360 from investors victimized in this scheme.

In the second scheme, Argyropoulos faces seven fraud charges for allegedly marketing shares in an investment known as the “Laurence Miles Giant Estate Settlement,” which was also called the “Laurence Miles Trust.” According to the indictment, Argyropoulos falsely told investors that the beneficiary of the Trust was a very ill woman who needed medical treatments and was the heir to a large estate, which was worth more than $1 billion. According to the bogus story, the estate was tied up in probate proceedings, and money was needed to cover the heir’s medical expenses. Once the probate proceedings were finished, Argyropoulos allegedly told victims, the assets would become available for transfer, at which point, investors would receive a large return – as much as 1,000 percent. In truth, there was no estate to be settled and no “ill woman” with large medical bills. According to the indictment, Argyropoulos’ investors lost over $760,000 in the scam. 

The final eight counts of the indictment charge Argyropoulos with criminal contempt. These counts allege that Argyropoulos’ solicitation of investments in the Laurence Miles Trust violated the terms of an injunction that Argyropoulos consented to in a suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was based on the fraudulent Facebook and Twitter scheme. The injunction prohibited Argyropoulos from selling fraudulent investments and acting as an unlicensed broker.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime.  Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted of the 13 fraud charges in the indictment, Argyropoulos would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count. There is no statutory maximum sentence for the eight contempt charges.

The case against Argyropoulos is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Frauds Section.

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penelopejones Feb 15, 2018 11:17 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

It is absolutely mind-blowing that the only Santa Barbara news-source who ever reports the crimes committed by the Elias Argyropoulos, is Edhat. Thank you. This guy has been committing these crimes for years and years and still lives a wonderful lifestyle. Do a deep Google search. His son Dimitri is another venture capital scum in town, but he knows not to associate his name with his fathers (and also changed his company name). Don't let anyone in that family touch your money.

RHS Feb 10, 2018 10:15 AM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

Generally it is true that "you can't cheat an honest" person. Just as with the Madoff "victims" most of these people simply couldn't understand why they would have to settle for the piddling returns that the rest of us accept. They knew there were people on the "inside" who could get them special access and big returns not available to the hoi polloi. Abstractly, it is hard to feel for these greedy souls.

Luvaduck Feb 09, 2018 05:10 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

Investments, like everything else that seems "too good to be true," probably aren't. As for criminality, if you aren't privy to the Clintons', Trumps', Bushs', certified accounts, IRS filings, a highly skilled accountant with access, their investment manager and an expert on financial law, you are parroting opinions of other people who also have no idea. Just stop. Love/hate some athletic teams, and to speculate, put a few bucks on your favorite in the office pool. Getting that right is at least possible.

Howard Roark Feb 08, 2018 07:52 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

At his age, if he gets a long sentence he'll die in prison. He's being prosecuted by Asst U.S. Attorney so he'll get at least 5 years or more plus, millions in fines, and millions in restitution. I bet he'll try to flee the country if he gets out on bail.

a-1539852570 Feb 08, 2018 05:17 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

thanks Rex, for refuting some of these snarky comments. ....good lord if I had $1.00 for every sanctimonious comment speaking in hindsight, I wouldn't need to invest...I'd have a steady stream of income. I'm really tired of all these ludicrous comments blaming the victims.

CivilEngineer Feb 08, 2018 02:28 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

Non-violent white collar crimes. Will get a slap on the wrist and be back out victimizing more people soon. Or can apply for a job in the Trump administration. 300K bail for a 5M crime is a joke. Even I could cover that bail.

oceandrew Feb 08, 2018 07:11 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

COASTWATCH... that's called a diversion. So, you know for a fact what goes on at the Clinton Foundation or are you going by the make believe they tell on Fake News? Maybe you could do a $ for $ comparison of the Clinton vs Trump Foundations. Facts only, none of Tucker's, Lou's or Sean's hyperbole.

a-1539852570 Feb 08, 2018 01:54 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

Two points : People who do that kind of scams are the scum of the earth. People who fall for this put themselves in. Somehow they feel that they "deserve" (for one reason or another) to get those totally ludicrous returns which other (ordinary) people do not deserve to get ..Just a bit of common sense (and humility) would have saved them from it ..

a-1539852570 Feb 08, 2018 04:47 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

Yeah it's so easy for someone who has never signed over their life's savings to a "professional" to invest it for the future to know the uncertainty and leap of faith that occurs when the check is signed over. Heck, if you're never had more than 2 nickels to rub together the whole idea of investing 10s of 1000s or more is ludicrous when you'd rather go out and buy something if you had that kind of cash.

REX OF SB Feb 08, 2018 04:27 PM
Montecito Man Arrested for Alleged Investment Fraud Schemes

That's not necessarily true. A few years ago I got royally screwed at a highly reputable upper State Street brokerage house by a broker who, unbeknownst to me, countermanded everything I'd requested. In the first two months he'd managed to lose over $50,000 of my money by "investing" in stocks I'd specifically told him not to. Could I have sued to get my $$$ back? Very probably. But the legal fees would have eaten me alive. The lesson I learned was that some "investment counselors" are no better than used car salesmen, so I now avoid them entirely. So p, lease don't blame the victims of these (alleged) shysters.

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