The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday asked a federal judge to freeze the assets of a Ft. Lauderdale man and his corporations, charging that he used an array of limited partnerships sold as tax shelters to defraud investors.

According to papers filed in U.S. District Court yesterday, information in the hands of the SEC indicates that defendant Edward H. Heller and his corporations "have committed massive and repeated violations of the federal securities laws and misappropriated funds received from public investors."

The SEC argued that an immediate court order was needed because Heller has diverted investor funds to foreign countries beyond the court's reach and might do do again with the remaining assets of the corporations.

The request for a court order, which will be heard today, grew out of an SEC investigation of a network of 51 limited partnerships that were sold to investors as tax shelters. The SEC is investigating whether the companies violated antifraud provisions of federal securities laws and whether money from one set of investors would be used to pay off another set in an operation similar to a pyramid scheme.

In papers filed yesterday requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injuction against Heller and his corporations, the SEC said that Heller had been engaged in syndicating and managing tax shelter limited partnerships ostensibly in the business of cultivating and distributing horticultural products since 1972.

But what Heller and associate C. William Ford and several companies actually had done was to defraud the purchasers of interests in the partnerships. The fraud included not disclosing that Heller was siphoning off for his personal benefit substantial amounts of more than $40 million raised in the sale of interests in at least 47 partnerships. It also included not telling investors that money was being comingled among the partnerships, that what were purported to be loans to the partnerships were shams and that money raised from one set of investors would be used to pay off another set.

In the request filed with the court yesterday the SEC also asked for a special agent to take control of the assets of the firms controlled by Heller. s