A Montecito man was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison for orchestrating a years-long scheme that defrauded 130 investors out of more than $3.4 million.
Efstratios Argyropoulos, 73, misled investors by telling them that he would pool their money to purchase pre-IPO shares of companies such as Facebook and Twitter.
Argyropoulos was the president and sole shareholder of Prima Ventures Corp., a Santa Barbara-based financial services firm, from 2010 to 2015.
During this time, Argyropoulos represented to investors that he had “amazing” investment opportunities that would provide a high rate of return on any money invested, according to Ciaron McEvoy, public information officer at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Argyropoulos diverted the invested funds for other uses such as day-trading in stocks unrelated to the promised investments and other personal expenses including gambling, cars, insurance bills, and legal expenses arising out of an investigation into his activities led by the Securities and Exchange Commission, McEvoy said.
He would meet some of his victims at church gatherings, where he would forge relationships with them. He later used those relationships to recruit other unsuspecting investors.
Argyropoulos falsely told investors that he had access to good investment opportunities in companies such as Alibaba, Etsy, and E-Waste, McEvoy added.
Argyropoulos and Prima Ventures led investors to believe that they were licensed brokers, when they actually were not licensed by the SEC or any other regulatory authority.
In 2015, Argyropoulos admitted to violating a court order in a lawsuit brought by the SEC, which was based on the fraudulent Facebook and Twitter scheme. This injunction prohibited him from selling fraudulent investments and acting as an unlicensed broker.
Argyropoulos was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge George H. Wu, who also ordered him to pay $3,416,628 in restitution to his victims.