On March 10, 2010, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it obtained an emergency court order to shut down a Ponzi scheme targeting retirees in California and Illinois. The Ponzi scheme involved inviting retirees to estate planning seminars and then coaxing the retirees to buy promissory notes for purported Turkish investments.
The SEC alleges that USA Retirement Management Services (USARMS) and managing partners Francois E. Durmaz and Robert C. Pribilski mass-mailed promotional materials to retirees and invited them to estate planning seminars at country clubs and banquet halls. They then held follow-up meetings and portrayed themselves as educated and experienced in foreign investments specifically tailored to the needs of seniors. Durmaz allegedly falsely claimed that he held a Masters of Business Administration and that he was a Certified Senior Advisor. As such, prospective investors were led to believe that Durmaz was educated and experienced in investments specifically tailored to the needs of seniors and retirees. Durmaz and Pribilski pitched what they represented as safe, guaranteed investments in “Turkish Eurobonds” through the purchase of USARMS promissory notes that would earn annual returns between 8 and 11 percent.
The SEC alleges that USARMS raised at least $20 million from more than 120 investors, but did not actually invest the money in Turkish Eurobonds as promised. Instead, returns were paid to earlier investors with funds received from new investors, in classic Ponzi-scheme fashion. Durmaz and Pribilski further misused investor funds to finance their other businesses and purchase luxury cars, homes, vacations, and web-based pornography. They also are accused of wiring investor money into bank accounts belonging to individuals living in Turkey.
Neither USARMS nor the promissory notes are registered with the SEC. Further, neither Durmaz nor Pribiliski is registered with the SEC in any capacity nor do they hold any securities licenses. USARMS is incorporated in Illinois and has offices in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, and Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.