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Medical Capital Fraud: How Did It Happen?

Medical Capital fraud is on the minds of many investors. The shuttered lender, based in Tustin, California, has left thousands of investors in financial straits, with many still asking how it happened and why regulators didn’t do a better job of scrutinizing sales of private placements.

Private placements are stocks, bonds or other instruments that a corporation issues to investors outside of the public markets. Because the issuing companies don’t have to register private placements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), these investments are considered riskier than traditional securities.

Medical Capital Holdings operated its business by providing funds to financially troubled hospitals and health-care facilities. Once it secured the unpaid bills, or receivables, of those companies, interests in the receivables were sold to investors in the form of private placement securities called Medical Capital Notes.

From 2003 to 2009, through a group of special-purpose subsidiaries, Medical Capital Holdings issued more than $2.2 billion of Medical Capital Notes to some 20,000 investors across the country. By the time the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Medical Capital for fraud in July 2009, Medical Capital had more than $543 million in phony receivables on its books and had lost $316 million on various loans. Meanwhile, the company had collected $323 million in fees for managing money-losing loans.

The SEC also uncovered the makings of a massive Ponzi scheme at Medical Capital. The scam ultimately would be called one of largest alleged Ponzi schemes in the history of Orange County, California. According to the SEC, Medical Capital was selling receivables at a markup among the funds it controlled and using money from newer investors to pay investors in the older funds.

In addition, the SEC says Medical Capital spent $4.5 million on a 118-foot yacht called the Home Stretch and another $18.1 million on unreleased movie about a Mexican Little League team.

In March 2010, federal prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into two key executives at Medical Capital: CEO Sidney M. Field and President Joseph J. “Joey” Lampariello. Interestingly, Field had previous run-ins with regulators. In the early 1990s, he was essentially ousted from the auto insurance industry after California insurance regulators sued him for fraud and revoked his license.

Adrian Cross invested more than $1 million of her “nest egg” money in private placement securities issued by Medical Capital and another company, Provident Asset LLC. As reported in a March 27, 2010, article in the Wall Street Journal, the former schoolteacher made the investment on the recommendation of the broker/dealer she trusted: Securities America. When Medical Capital and Provident Royalties collapsed in 2009, Cross’s investment was wiped out.

“I felt gutted like a fish,” Cross said in the Wall Street Journal article. “He had pushed it as a safe alternative to stocks.”

Cross isn’t alone. Hundreds of other Medical Capital investors express similar sentiments. Many have filed arbitration claims with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), accusing their broker/dealer of misrepresenting private placements in companies like Medical Capital as safe and secure.

In January, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin brought the first state enforcement case against Securities America over sales practices regarding Medical Capital. Among the charges, Galvin alleges that Securities America representatives failed to disclose certain risks to customers, many of whom were retirees.

The case is awaiting a hearing.

Maddox Hargett & Caruso P.C. continues to file arbitration claims with FINRA on behalf of investors who suffered investment losses in Medical Capital. If you purchased Medical Capital Notes from a broker/dealer and wish to discuss your potential rights for recovery, contact us today.

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