SEC charges broker with luring investors into fake tax-exempt bonds


The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged former Illinois-based broker-dealer Ronald Molo with defrauding three investors out of $800,000 by luring them into investing in nonexistent tax-exempt bonds.

The bonds were not genuine, the SEC found, and Molo is accused of using the $800,000 for personal expenses.

“Molo convinced the three investors to transfer money out of their advisory and brokerage accounts to another bank account, purportedly to invest in tax-free bonds,” the SEC release said. “In reality, the bonds did not exist and Molo did not tell the investors that the account to which he had directed them to transfer their money was his personal bank account.”

Bloomberg News

Between January 2019 and November 2020, while registered with Edward Jones, Molo allegedly stole $250,000 and $300,000 from two of his investment advisory clients while working out of his firm’s office in Joliet, Illinois. He then stole another $250,000 from a brokerage firm client, the SEC said.

The SEC found that Molo used this money to pay personal expenses including mortgage payments, automobile purchases and renovations to his home. He then tried to cover it up by sending the three investors $22,000 in purported interest payments from the nonexistent bonds, using altered cashiers checks drawn from funds in his personal bank account.

“Molo did not provide the investors with written materials about the purported bond investments – all of their communications about the supposed investments were oral,” the complaint said. When his former employer discovered the fraud in June 2021, they terminated him.

The SEC’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement, prejudgement interest and civil penalties.

Criminal charges were filed against Molo on Nov. 23 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois in a parallel action.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority suspended Molo’s license in October, citing his failure to respond to questions from FINRA investigators.

The SEC investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by James O’Keefe, supervised by Steven Klawans of the Chicago regional office and litigation is being led by Eric Phillips.

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