Quoting from the DoJ press release:
According to records filed in the case, the HONGs recruited investors using religious organizations and shared religious beliefs. The couple claimed that LAURENCE HONG privately invests money for wealthy Korean families and that GRACE HONG holds a Series 65 securities license and previously worked for a large international investment firm. None of these statements appear to be true. Nor was LAURENCE HONG’s past history disclosed. The couple sent potential customers misleading and false investment prospectuses that contained an inaccurate record of their past investment performance and other plagiarized investment outlooks. They further misled investors as to the advisor fees they would charge and the amount of their funds that would be at risk.
The HONGs used investor funds for their own benefit. One church in California invested $1 million with the HONGs and lost about $300,000 on a single trade. Still, despite the steep losses and a fee arrangement based on investment gains, the HONGs withdrew almost $150,000, ostensibly as advisor fees, from the church’s account. Another couple allowed the HONGs to manage their $180,000 in retirement funds only to lose $100,000 within less than a year. After meeting with the HONGs, that couple then invested their remaining retirement funds in the HONGs’ hedge fund, only for those funds to be redirected into GRACE HONG’s personal account. The HONGs used those funds to pay credit card bills and other personal expenses, including a $16,000 payment to a resort in the Bahamas for a HONG family vacation.
Investigators have identified over $2 million in additional losses in several other investor accounts managed by the HONGs. The financial investigation to date has revealed investor money was used to pay for the HONGs’ extravagant lifestyle, which included a 9,000 square foot rental home in Clyde Hill; a 45-foot yacht; multiple high-end vehicles, such as BMWs, a Maserati, and a Lamborghini; and lavish vacations.
This is another case where a modest amount of due diligence would have protected the investors. The Sung Hong was previously arrested for fraud. I remember the first time I looked to invest in a company and my minimal due diligence revealed that the CEO William Telander had spent three years in prison for stock fraud (involving alchemy!). Needless to say I did not invest. Google is your friend. Also, if considering investing, make sure to read the fine print, make sure that the money is held at an independent custodian, and make sure that the money manager is licensed or otherwise legally allowed to manage money.
Caveat emptor, as always.