The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against The Alista Group, LLC (Alista), owner Marvin W. Courson III, and company employees Christopher A. Kertatos and Luis M. Pineda Palacios a/k/a Luis Pineda, for fraud, engaging in illegal, off-exchange transactions in precious metals, and misappropriating $890,500 USD of customer funds.
Alista was based in Georgia and conducted operations out of Fort Myers, Florida; Orlando, Florida; and Savannah, Georgia. Courson, Kertatos, and Palacious are Florida residents. The complaint alleges that Courson, as a controlling person of Alista, is liable for the company’s violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA).
According to the complaint, from July 2016 through at least January 2018, Alista defrauded customers using illegal, off-exchange retail commodity transactions involving precious metals. Notably, Alista’s leveraged precious metals transactions never resulted in the actual delivery of the full amount of metal purchased by its customers.
Moreover, in connection with this activity, the complaint alleges that Alista, by and through the actions of Courson and Kertatos, defrauded these customers by misappropriating their funds to speculate in precious metals for Alista’s own account, paid Alista’s business expenses, and made Ponzi-style payments to customers who attempted to cash out some of their purported holdings. In addition, Kertatos and Pineda individually defrauded at least some of Alista’s customers by using individual and/or corporate bank accounts under their personal control to accept Alista customer funds. They then misappropriated those funds to pay for personal and other expenses unrelated to leveraged precious metals transactions on behalf of Alista’s customers.
The CFTC seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, permanent registration and trading bans, and a permanent injunction against further violations of the CEA, as charged.
The CFTC thanks the U.S. Secret Service, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, and the Lee County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this matter.
The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this action are Alan Edelman, Michelle Bougas, Erica Bodin, Alison B. Wilson, and Rick Glaser.
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CFTC’s Precious Metals Customer Fraud Advisory
The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Precious Metals Fraud Advisory, which alerts customers to precious metals fraud and lists simple ways to spot precious metals scams.
Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a Toll-Free Hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.