The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it charged Stamford, Connecticut-based Seong Yeol Lee and Ameritrust Corporation, a public company Lee controls, with stealing at least $4 million from investors in the United States and the Republic of Korea. The SEC is seeking immediate emergency relief, including an order freezing assets of Lee, Ameritrust, and their associated entities.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that, through a network of recruiters acting at his direction, Lee solicited more than $20 million from investors primarily in the Republic of Korea, who sent money to corporate and personal bank accounts that Lee controls in the United States to buy shares of Ameritrust, a publicly traded company in the United States. Lee, either directly or through his recruiters, allegedly told investors that their money would buy shares in a U.S.-based company that would be listed on a national stock exchange, guaranteeing profits for anyone holding the shares. In reality, the complaint alleges that Ameritrust has no real operations and has not taken any steps to apply for any exchange listing. According to the SEC’s complaint, Lee misappropriated at least $4 million of investor funds by transferring money from corporate bank accounts to his personal bank accounts and to three of his adult children. Lee and Ameritrust also allegedly defrauded the public by making materially false statements or failing to disclose material information in Ameritrust’s filings with the Commission.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, charges Lee and Ameritrust with violating the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10(b)-5 thereunder. The SEC is seeking emergency relief from Lee and Ameritrust, including a temporary restraining order and an order to freeze the defendants’ assets. The complaint also seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against Lee and Ameritrust, and an officer and director bar and penny stock bar against Lee.
The complaint also names as relief defendants two entities affiliated with the defendants and three of Lee’s children, and seeks disgorgement plus prejudgment interest from them. The SEC is also seeking to freeze assets of the affiliated entities.
The SEC’s case is being handled by Rua Kelly, Michael Moran, John McCann, Naomi Sevilla, and Amy Gwiazda, all of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and the Financial Services Commission and Financial Supervisory Service of the Republic of Korea.