A Miami attorney named Bernie Butts was charged yesterday with perpetrating an investment scam by the SEC. Butts, 72, is alleged to have partnered with Tampa resident Fotios Geivelis, 34, and several sales agents in defrauding 45 clients out of $3.5 million. Butts and Geivelis are said to have organized and carried out the solicitation of funds for a prime bank scheme, a high-yield investment program (HYIP) purporting to trade in international financial instruments that do not in fact exist.
Federal regulators say that Butts and Geivelis launched their HYIP in May of 2012 and that it continued until August of this year. Geveilis, representing himself to investors as “Frank Anastasio,” claimed his company Worldwide Funding was a broker of international bank notes that produced eye-crossing profits. All an investor had to do was wire a sum of $60,000 to $90,000, which would then supposedly be used to secure a standby letter of credit (SBLC), the means to reaping a windfall of 6.6 million Euros ($8.7 million) within 15 to 45 days plus 14% weekly interest for another 10 ½ months. It’s only a shame the duo didn’t throw in a free gold-plated space plane to really sweeten the deal.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Butts told clients he would keep their funds in his escrow account until Worldwide Funding purchased an SBLC note. Yet Butts might have known he was more likely to chance upon a Sasquatch in his local neighborhood park than to ever find an entirely phony financial instrument. Investigators established that investor money was split three ways: 45% for Geveilis, 45% for Butts, and 10% in “commissions” for sales agents, paid through Butts Holdings and other entities. Interestingly, Butts had previously made his way into the news as a fraud victim, obtaining a court judgment of nearly $20 million against one Jason Meyer, the now-jailed proprietor of HYIP schemes 3 Hooligans Investments and Getting Paid Acquisitions.
- Age: 72
- Company: Worldwide Funding, Butts Holdings
- Job: Lawyer
- Alleged Scam: Prime Bank
- Ponzi Time: 2008 – 2012
- Victims: 45
- Amount of Fraud: $3.5 million
- Location: Miami, FL
- SEC Complaint: Multiple Violations of Securities Exchange Act
- Court: U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida