The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging that a former Florida-based company defrauded thousands of investors in a $1.2 billion scheme.
The SEC filed a civil complaint Thursday in federal court in Miami claiming Robert H. Shapiro and his Woodbridge Group of Companies formerly headquartered in Boca Raton defrauded more than 8,400 investors.
A federal judge ordered a temporary asset freeze against Shapiro and his investment companies and ordered them to account for investor money.
The SEC says Woodbridge claimed to operate a loan business that would pay investors returns of up to 10 percent annually. In reality, the SEC says it operated a classic Ponzi scheme in which newer investor money was used to pay older investors.
A Shapiro attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“Our complaint alleges that Woodbridge’s business model was a sham,” Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “The only way Woodbridge was able to pay investors their dividends and interest payments was through the constant infusion of new investor money."