A former insurance agent is at the center of an alleged $2.5 million retirement fraud that was based on the sale of unregistered securities, according to a complaint filed yesterday by the Massachusetts Securities Division, led by Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin.
The agent, Julie Ann Minuskin, and her business, Retire Happy, were based in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to the complaint, where she was a licensed insurance agent from 2012 to 2020. She was the sole managing member and agent of the firm.
Current or former insurance agents who sell dubious securities has long been a problem in the retail financial advice industry. The 2017 collapse of the $1.2 billion Woodbridge Ponzi scheme, much of which was sold by active insurance agents brought the issue of weak insurance regulation into focus.
The Massachusetts complaint alleges that Retire Happy “is in the business of fraudulently exploiting the retirement accounts of senior and other individuals.” Acting as an unregistered broker-dealer, the firm sold $2.5 million in unregistered promissory note securities to at least 11 investors in Massachusetts, the complaint alleges.
A call to Retire Happy could not be completed and Minuskin could not be reached for comment.
Many of the companies issuing the unregistered securities sold by Retire Happy to clients cannot find funding from other sources and are close to bankruptcy, according to the complaint. Retire Happy is paid a 12% finder’s fee for each investment, which translates into $290,000 of fees for the sale of $2.5 million of unregistered securities in question.
“The uncertain financial condition of the issuers makes it unlikely that any investor could recover its principal, however, Retire Happy’s staff of unregistered persons is trained to sell the promissory notes as secure, safe and guaranteed investments,” the complaint alleges.
Retire Happy contacts potential investors through unsolicited cold calls and other methods, and then convinces those individuals to transfer their savings into self-directed IRAs provided by Provident Trust Group, according to the complaint. Provident is a Nevada company which provides compensation to Retire Happy for each IRA opened, according to the complaint.
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