CFTC charges Ill. man with commodity pool fraud

Defendant charged with fraudulent solicitation of over $1 million from at least 18 individuals

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it filed a civil enforcement action against Christopher Varlesi of Chicago, Ill., individually and doing business as Gold Coast Futures and Forex (Gold Coast).  The CFTC is charging Varlesi with fraudulently operating a commodity pool to trade commodity futures and off-exchange foreign currency (forex) contracts.  The CFTC complaint also charges Varlesi with making false statements to pool participants, misappropriating pool funds, and failing to register as a commodity pool operator.

On March 8, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr. entered an emergency ex parte restraining order freezing Varlesi’s assets.  The order also prohibits him from destroying or altering books and records.  The judge set a hearing date for March 15, 2012.

The CFTC complaint, filed on March 7, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that from at least February 2008 through at least April 2011, Varlesi, doing business as Gold Coast, solicited and accepted at least $1,074,000 from at least eight individuals in connection with his commodity pool.  In exchange for their investment, Varlesi issued promissory notes to pool participants paying a fixed monthly interest rate on principal, according to the complaint.

Varlesi allegedly misrepresented his trading “track record” and the pool’s performance when soliciting and accepting pool participants’ funds. Instead of trading pool participants’ funds as promised, Varlesi allegedly misappropriated some of those funds.  The complaint also alleges that Varlesi confessed, to at least one pool participant, that he had spent the majority of that participant’s funds on business and personal expenses, and to pay other pool participants. 

To conceal and perpetuate the fraud, Varlesi allegedly touted his ability to trade futures and forex contracts profitably and made verbal misrepresentations.  Varlesi also provided at least one pool participant with false investment performance documents that failed to disclose trading losses and misappropriation, according to the complaint.

In or around March 2011, Varlesi stopped making interest payments on the promissory notes and, after weeks of delays and excuses, confessed to at least one pool participant that all investor money was gone, according to the complaint.  Despite subsequent promises to repay the pool participants, Varlesi allegedly has not done so.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks civil monetary penalties, restitution, rescission, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, trading and registration bans, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois and the Illinois Secretary of State Securities Department.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Robert Howell, Mary Elizabeth Spear, Ava Gould, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard Wagner. 

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