SEC names new defendant in Dawn Bennett fraud case

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The SEC has expanded a case that it alleges is a "Ponzi-like" scheme that defrauded investors of millions.

This week, it named Bradley Mascho, a Maryland-based advisor, as an additional defendant for his alleged role in helping the head of DJBennett, a luxury sports apparel business, raise more than $20 million through the sale of company notes, including offering up his own brokerage customers as targets.

The day after the charges were made public, Mascho's affiliation as an advisor representative and broker with Western International Services was terminated, according to SEC and FINRA records.

Mascho's attorney, Stuart Berman, declined to comment on the case. A spokesman for Western International, declined to comment on Mascho's exit from the firm.

Mascho's case is now coupled with the SEC's ongoing action against Dawn Bennett, a former advisor and radio personality who founded and led DJBennett, and is charged with orchestrating the campaign to defraud at least 46 investors, including many seniors. The SEC is now alleging that Bennett was aided and abetted by Mascho, who for a time served as chief financial officer at the sports apparel company.

Bennett is accused of dramatically overstating the financial health of her apparel firm, and using the proceeds from the sale of the notes to fund an "extravagant lifestyle" and to repay earlier investors, what the SEC said was "a hallmark of a Ponzi scheme" when it announced charges against Bennett in August.

Both Mascho and Bennett face parallel criminal charges in federal court in Maryland.

Attorneys for Bennett did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

The SEC is alleging that the fraud began in December 2014, when Bennett's advisory business was falling on hard times, losing clients and AUM, while millions of dollars in losses were piling up at her sports apparel company.

"In an effort to sustain DJBennett and tap a new income stream, Bennett, assisted by Mascho, turned to the fraudulent sale of the notes," the SEC charges in its amended complaint.

Bennett and Mascho "frequently targeted elderly and financially unsophisticated investors by materially misrepresenting the company's profitability and by claiming the company had the resources to pay an annual rate of return of 15%," the SEC charges. "Defendants also lied about DJBennett's extensive liabilities and the risks associated with the investment."

The defendants are said to have convinced investors that the proceeds from their investments would be funneled back into DJBennett for a variety of efforts to grow the firm. Instead, the SEC alleges, those funds were used to repay previous investors, service debt, "and to finance a variety of luxuries on behalf of Bennett, such as jewelry, high-end clothing, mystics and a $500,000 annual lease for a luxury suite at AT&T Stadium in Dallas."

In the amended complaint, the SEC alleges that Mascho played a critical role in the operation, preparation of falsified financial statements, lying to regulators and his employer, and circumventing Western International's surveillance system to facilitate the transactions.

Bennett previously had been barred by the SEC from working as an investment advisor after having been charged with making a series of misstatements and omissions while running her own advisory firm, Bennett Group Financial Services, and working as a registered representative for Western International.

Court records indicate that Bennett entered a not guilty plea in her criminal case on Tuesday, though the details of her arraignment are sealed.

Mascho, who was arrested on Dec. 1 and has been granted a conditional release, is awaiting arraignment and has not yet entered a plea.

In the SEC's complaint, the agency charges Mascho with violations of the Securities Act and Securities Exchange Act, and is seeking a permanent injunction, civil penalties and disgorgement with interest.

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