SEC Halts Ponzi Scheme Targeting Vietnamese Investors
The SEC announced fraud charges and an asset freeze on March 18, 2019, against the operators of a $25 million Ponzi scheme falsely promising high annual returns with minimal to no risk to investors in the Vietnamese community of Orange County, California.
The SEC alleges that Kent R.E. Whitney founded The Church for the Healthy Self three months after being released from federal prison for orchestrating a prior investment scheme involving commodities. According to the SEC, the Church for the Healthy Self’s investment program, CHS Trust, promised investors tax-deductible, guaranteed, and insured returns of at least 12%, through reinsurance investments and options trading.
David Lee Parrish, who assisted Kent Whitney’s earlier fraud, joined his friend as a co-pastor of The Church for the Healthy Self and as the purported director of CHS Trust. Kent Whitney and David Lee Parrish primarily targeted Vietnamese investors through extensive radio and television advertisements touting CHS Trust. Instead of generating the promised guaranteed profits, Kent Whitney and David Lee Parrish stole millions of dollars of investor funds and paid returns through Ponzi payments. Earlier this month, the FBI obtained a criminal seizure of the funds in CHS Trust’s main account, citing potential violations of federal wire fraud and money laundering statutes as the predicate for the seizure. Despite the FBI seizure, Kent Whitney and David Lee Parrish continued to solicit investors.
The SEC alleges that the defendants violated the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement, and civil penalties against the defendants.
On March 14, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order and asset freeze.
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