A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order barring a Northern Virginia financial planning enterprise from violating federal securities laws, freezing the company's assets and ordering an accounting of its funds.
The Securities and Exchange Commission sought the order, charging The Financial Planning Center of Greater Washington Inc., its parent company, National Financial Planning Centers Inc., and Walter H. T. Seager, president of NFPC, with promising investors high rates of returns on investments that were never made. Instead, the SEC alleged, investors' returns came from money invested by later customers.
The defendants consented to the order without admitting the charges by the SEC. A trial has been scheduled for Jan. 25.
According to the SEC, Seager told customers their money would be invested in "fractional interests in large-denomination certificates of deposit" and promised interest rates as high as 24 percent.
The SEC said that at least eight clients had invested approximately $152,000, believing that they were buying a piece of a large denomination CD. Some of the money was used to make what were purported to be principal and interest payments to other clients, the SEC said. Other investors were told that interest was being held for them in special, interest-earning accounts, according to an affidavit.
Other money was used by Seager "to support cash withdrawals requested and endorsed by him and to pay personal expenses, including utility payments on his personal residence, grocery bills, dentist bills and veterinary bills," according to the SEC. The agency noted that Seager and the company failed to disclose that to investors.
According to an affidavit filed by the SEC, federal examiners began looking at the firm in November as a result of complaints. SEC examiner Louis P. Becka said that one client of the firm, a widow, had invested $55,000 in fractional interests in CDs. The money "represented virtually all of the proceeds of her husband's life insurance," according to the affidavit.
The client did not receive interest when the investments matured but was told that interest was being held for her in a special interest-earning account. When she tried to redeem a $25,000 investment after it reached maturity, a check for that amount plus $9,000 accrued interest bounced.
Another check that was supposed to be interest on an investment appeared to have been financed by money coming in from another investor. The examiner also noted that the Dallas bank that was supposed to be the issuer of the securities that Seager was selling said that it did not have a large denomination CD that matched the one described by Seager.