The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against Jason P. Wootten and Ronald Frank Stevenson, two Arizona-based individuals, and the companies they controlled and operated, for registration violations in connection with their unlawful sales of securities of real estate funds managed by Florida-based EquiAlt LLC (the Funds) to retail investors. The SEC previously filed an enforcement action against EquiAlt LLC and the Funds, EquiAlt’s CEO Brian Davison, and its Managing Director Barry Rybicki on February 11, 2020, alleging that they were operating a Ponzi scheme which raised more than $170 million from approximately 1,100 investors in 35 states.
According to the SEC’s complaint, between approximately October 2016 and February 2020, Wootten and his company, Family Tree Estate Planning, LLC, sold over $32 million of the Funds’ securities to more than 100 investors. Wootten, through Family Tree Estate Planning, received approximately $3.7 million in commissions from EquiAlt, despite neither Wootten nor Family Tree being registered as a broker-dealer. The complaint also alleges that, between approximately February 2015 and January 2020, Stevenson and his company, American Financial Security, LLC, sold over $19 million of the Funds’ securities to more than 100 investors. Stevenson, through American Financial Security, received approximately $1.7 million in commissions, despite neither Stevenson nor American Financial Security being registered as a broker-dealer.
The SEC’s complaint, which was filed in federal district court in Arizona, charges Wootten, Stevenson, and their companies with violating the registration provisions of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933 and the broker-dealer registration provisions of Section 15(a)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with interest and financial penalties.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Chanel T. Rowe and Andre J. Zamorano, with assistance from Mark Dee, and supervised by Thierry Olivier Desmet and Glenn S. Gordon in the Miami Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation is being led by Alise Johnson and Christopher E. Martin, supervised by Andrew O. Schiff. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Arizona Corporation Commission in connection with the EquiAlt investigation.
The SEC encourages investors to check the backgrounds of people selling investments by using the SEC’s Investor.gov to identify quickly whether they are registered professionals and confirm their identity.