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Ashcroft accuses investment firms of predatory practices

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Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft ordered two out-of-state companies to stay away from the Show-Me State.

Ashcroft’s securities division levied the cease-and-desist orders against Aaron Wilbanks’ Oklahoma City-based Wilbanks Securities Inc. and Aaron Wilbanks & Associates Inc., as well as Dublin, Ireland-based Rumelia Capital, according to news releases.

In the case of Wilbanks, the investment firms targeted two Missourians. The husband died in 2010, leaving his wife with sole responsibility of their developmentally disabled son. After her husband died, two agents with Wilbanks Securities advocated the surviving spouse buy a mutual fund comprising high-risk municipal bonds after liquidating much of her assets, Ashcroft says.

“The victim in this case had just lost her husband and was approached by the two agents when she was most vulnerable, at her husband’s funeral. The agents took advantage of the situation, and it is alleged that their conduct was not appropriately supervised,” Secretary of State Securities Commissioner David Minnick said in the release.

The agents also attempted to get the woman to sell her home to purchase additional investments and sign over the rights to her trust and guardian responsibilities for her son to one of the agents, according to the release.

Ashcroft’s office ordered Wilbanks and his companies to show cause why they should not be ordered to pay restitution, civil penalties and investigation costs totaling some $213,000.

The secretary of state’s office also took issue with Rumelia Capital, which allegedly sold unregistered, nonexempt binary options — what Ashcroft officials call all-or-nothing wagers — to an investor in Missouri, according to a separate release.

The Missourian first invested $15,750 in Rumelia in late 2016, and in early February, the company charged $4,000 to the investor’s credit card without her knowledge, according to Ashcroft’s office.

The investor was provided statements showing her account value had grown to $25,146, but two weeks later found an account balance of $14,656. She was then unable to withdraw funds from the account or contact Rumelia officials, according to the release.

“Overseas binary options firms operate in various ways — by sending emails, conducting telephone calls and providing online platforms for investors,” Minnick said in the release. “Regardless how these firms communicate with investors, you should verify that they are registered before providing them with access to your money or other confidential personal information.”

Rumelia is required to provide cause why it should not pay more than $145,000 in restitution, civil penalties and investigation costs.

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