Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 3:34 pm | Partly Cloudy 74º


Local News

Montecito Man Faces Federal Fraud Charges for Investment Schemes

A Montecito man has been arrested on federal fraud charges and faces allegations of orchestrating two investment frauds and violating a court order that prohibited him from acting as an unlicensed broker, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos, 71, of Montecito, was indicted by a grand jury in October and arrested Wednesday, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

Argyropoulos operated financial services businesses Prima Capital Group, Inc. and Prima Ventures – out of a 1230 Coast Village Road office, according to Yelp and other sites – but was not a licensed broker, according to authorities.

He was arraigned in U.S. District Court, pleaded not guilty, and was released on a $300,000 bond, Mrozek said, adding that trial is scheduled for March 20.

Argyropoulos’ “fraudulent schemes” included soliciting investments for securities he did not purchase, and investments for a trust that did not exist, according to indictment allegations.

From October 2010 to October 2015, Argyropoulos contacted potential investors to offer stock offerings, such as pre-IPO shares of Facebook and Twitter, and while representing himself as a licensed broker, according to the indictment.

He is accused of using investors’ money not to buy those shares, but to day-trade in unrelated stocks, and fund personal expenses such as car, mortgage, travel and gambling.

He received about $4.9 million from this scheme, according to authorities.

Argyropoulos is also accused of soliciting investments for a trust, called the Laurence Miles Trust or Laurence Miles Giant Estate Settlement, which he said was set up to fund medical expenses for a very ill heiress.

Her inheritance of more than $1 billion was tied up in probate court and involved the Federal Reserve and a gag order, Argyropoulos allegedly told people, and investments in the trust would yield huge returns, up to $1,000 for every dollar put in.

The trust, and the woman, did not exist, authorities say, and victim-investors lost about $760,000 in the scam.

He faces 13 fraud charges related to these two schemes, and eight criminal contempt charges for allegedly violating terms of an injunction from a SEC case, which prohibited him from working as an unlicensed broker.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014 charged him with fraudulently raising money from investors to purchase Facebook and Twitter shares before their initial public offerings, and misappropriating the funds.

Argyropoulos and Prima Capital settled the case and defendants were given a permanent injunction not to work for an investment adviser or broker-dealer, and pay penalties of about $3 million, according to the SEC.

The SEC case involved a former employee, Khaled Eldaher of Texas, who was not named in the 21-count federal criminal indictment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Paetty is prosecuting the federal case, which is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

No booking photo was available per U.S. Attorney's Office policy, Mrozek said.​

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >