Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin has charged a Lowell man with “crowd-funding fraud,” his office said Thursday.
According to Galvin’s complaint, Christopher Melville of Lowell sold unregistered securities through a “crowd-funding social media-facilitated general solicitation for his company,” Tabletop Arena LLC.”
Attempts to reach Melville were not immediately successful.
Galvin also sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission urging the SEC to adopt strong investor protection in rules for crowd-funding securities offerings.
As Galvin’s press release noted, crowd-funding is a securities regulation exemption in the federal JOBS Act designed to allow small start-up companies to raise capital from large numbers of small investors, usually through social media. The idea is that potential investors will sift through offerings for the best ones, aided by group decision-making in the social media environment.
According to the complaint against Melville, he offered at least $250,000 in Tabletop securities, resulting in sales to at least 20 investors and received $153,396 in cash from mid April 2010 to December 2011. Tabletop’s business was purported to be amateur gaming and gambling products and services.
The securities were solicited from Tabletop customers, many of them inexperienced investors in their 20s, according to the complaint. The securities were solicited through Tabletop’s website and through such sites as Facebook and Twitter, the complaint said.
The complaint alleges that Tabletop and Melville offered and sold debt securities while concealing material investment risks and damaging business information to investors.
The administrative complaint seeks a cease and desist order against Tabletop and Melville and an order that they return money paid for securities that were offered in violation of the law, Galvin’s office said.