SEC Charges Husband and Wife in Florida with Defrauding Seniors Investing in Purported Charity

imagesThe SEC alleges that after Richard K. Olive and Susan L. Olive were hired at We The People Inc., the organization obtained $75 million from more than 400 investors in Florida, Colorado, and Texas among more than 30 states across the country by selling an investment product they described as a charitable gift annuity (CGA). However, the CGAs issued by We The People differed in several ways from CGAs issued legitimately, namely that they were issued primarily to benefit the Olives and other third-party promoters and consultants. Only a small amount of the money raised was actually directed to charitable services. Meanwhile the Olives received more than $1.1 million in salary and commissions, and they also siphoned away investor funds for their personal use.

The SEC further alleges that the Olives lured elderly investors with limited investing experience into the scheme by making a number of false representations about the purported value and financial benefits of We The People’s CGAs. The Olives also lied about the safety and security of the investments.

“The Olives raised millions from senior citizens by claiming that We The People’s so-called CGAs provided attractive financial benefits and were re-insured and backed by assets held in trust,” said Julie Lutz, Associate Director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office. “Investors were not given the full story about the true value and security of their investments.”

According to the SEC’s complaint against the Olives filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, investors were coaxed to transfer assets including stocks, annuities, real estate, and cash to We The People in exchange for a CGA. We The People claimed to operate as a non-profit organization while it was offering the CGAs from June 2008 to April 2012. However, We The People was not operating as a charity but instead for the primary purpose of issuing CGAs and using the proceeds to pay substantial sums to the Olives, third-party promoters, and consultants. On rare occasions when We The People did actually direct money raised toward charitable services, it was insignificant. For instance, the organization made public statements that it donated $21.8 million in relief aid to AIDS orphans in Zambia, but in fact the supplies were donated by others and We The People merely made a small payment to the third party that was shipping the supplies.

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