Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two foreign currency traders and their Boston-based company with operating a fraudulent scheme in which they sent investors misleading account statements while stealing their funds and incurring major trading losses.
The SEC alleges that Craig Karlis of Hopkinton, Mass., and Ahmet Devrim Akyil formerly of Hingham, Mass., fraudulently raised approximately $40 million from approximately 750 investors in a purported foreign currency (Forex) trading venture through their firm Boston Trading and Research LLC (BTR). Investors were falsely promised that BTR had a system in place to limit trading losses. BTR also falsely claimed to investors that "we do not profit unless you do" while in reality Karlis and Akyil were illegally diverting investor money for their own personal use as well as to fund BTR's operations and pay expenses for other companies with which they were associated.
"The bait was the promise by Akyil and Karlis to limit investor risk, and the switch was the theft and unauthorized trading that cost investors 90 percent of the invested funds," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "If you don't deliver what you promise and violate the securities laws, we will hold you accountable."
David Bergers, Director of the SEC's Boston Regional Office, added, "Akyil and Karlis secretly enriched themselves while many of the defrauded investors lost their retirement savings and financial security."
According to the SEC's complaint filed in federal court in Boston, for a minimum investment of $10,000, investors could deposit money with the BTR program. BTR used a website, sales representatives and live presentations by Karlis and Akyil to solicit funds from investors around the world. Investors provided Akyil with a limited power of attorney that granted him the right to direct the trading of their funds in the Forex market.
The SEC alleges that BTR's misrepresentations to investors included the following:
- Investors would have 100 percent transparency about what was going on in their accounts through daily and monthly account statements and 24-hour access to real-time information about the trading Akyil was doing on their behalf.
- Investors, through draw-down agreements, could lose no more than an agreed-upon percentage (typically 30 percent) of their investment.
- The BTR trading system included an automatic stop-loss program that would curtail losses once they reached a certain percentage.
- BTR and its principals would be paid from profits only.
The SEC alleges that BTR, through Akyil and with Karlis's knowledge, traded funds differently from what was disclosed in daily account statements to investors. The balance and equity positions that BTR provided investors on their account statements did not show that their funds had been diminished through BTR's use of investor money for undisclosed purposes. Meanwhile, Akyil and Karlis depleted the investment pool through misappropriation and trading losses far past the stop loss limits promised to investors. BTR collapsed in September 2008 and ultimately distributed the remaining funds to investors, which amounted to approximately 10 percent of their account balances.
The SEC's complaint charges Akyil, Karlis, and BTR with violating the antifraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws, and seeks civil injunctions, the return of ill-gotten gains, and financial penalties.
Separately, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts today unsealed an indictment charging Akyil and Karlis with criminal violations based on the same misconduct. The SEC also acknowledges the assistance of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Eric A. Forni, Kevin B. Currid, and Patrick J. Noone of the SEC's Boston Regional Office conducted the SEC's investigation. The SEC's litigation will be led by Rachel Hershfang and Michael Foster. The SEC's investigation is continuing.