Ware Enterprises and Investments Inc., which targeted blacks and Christians as well as nearly 20 NFL players, is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday as it acted to shut down the Orlando-based investment firm.
The SEC said the company got more than 600 people to invest about $16.5 million over three years by using religiously oriented pamphlets to attract vulnerable groups, the SEC said in its complaint.
The SEC claims that Ware held seminars designed to generate investors who were then asked to pass the investment information on to others. The company promised returns of 10 percent a month in the first 10 months and 5 percent after that, but provided no statements or other paperwork to investors. The SEC also pointed out that the company claimed the NFL endorsed its program, which was not the case.
Among the company’s investors were about 20 NFL players, who were told by the league last year to avoid the company. The Associated Press reported that last July, the NFL sent out an advisory warning players to stay away from the firm, and it forwarded information to the SEC and the FBI, league spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday before the complaint was announced. He would not name the players.
"Some of our players came to us, came to our security department to perform due diligence on an investment opportunity," Aiello said. "Our security department came up with information suggesting there could be problems."
Warren Ware, 32, who operated the firm, did not return AP calls on Tuesday. He and his firm were charged with the sale of unregistered securities and four counts of fraud in a five-count complaint, the AP reported. The SEC also moved to freeze the company’s assets despite the fact that the company was administratively dissolved last September after it failed to file an annual report. A receiver who hopes to return some money to investors is currently overseeing the company.
"It's particularly pernicious that people would target certain groups, in this case low income groups who were vulnerable," John Mattimore, assistant regional director of the SEC's Miami office, told the AP.