After a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July revealed he was selling millions in unregistered securities to clients who were not wealthy enough to buy them under industry rules, Dean Vagnozzi is now being sued by more than 50 customers for alleged fraud and conspiracy violations as well as breaching fiduciary obligations.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Philadelphia on November 6, seeks damages from Vagnozzi, his firm, A Better Financial Plan, and a series of related people and businesses. The clients invested more than $14 million with Vagnozzi, who was well known in Philadelphia for radio ads that blanketed the airwaves.
The clients were fraudulently induced by Vagnozzi and the other defendants “to use their hard-earned savings to purchase unsecured securities backed by risky merchant cash advance loans to small businesses,” according to the complaint.
Vagnozzi is not a registered financial adviser or broker but is a licensed insurance salesman. The website for his firm, A Better Financial Plan, touts returns of 10% to 14% and $200 million invested for clients. Vagnozzi could not be reached to comment. The telephone number associated with the firms is no longer in use.
Vagnozzi’s attorney, John Pauciulo, was also named in the investor complaint. He did not return a call Thursday morning to comment.
Vagnozzi and the other defendants “conspired to advertise, market and sell [A Better Financial Plan] merchant cash advance investments, which are unregistered securities, as a purportedly safer and more profitable alternative to registered securities like stock and bonds,” according to the complaint.
“Vagnozzi is well known in the Greater Philadelphia region for his ubiquitous AM radio advertisements promoting [his firm] and its four types of investments — merchant cash advance funds, life settlement funds, litigation funding and real estate funds,” according to the complaint. “However, Vagnozzi’s radio advertisements never mentioned that in May 2019, he agreed to pay a state-record $490,000 to settle charges by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities that he was selling securities without a license.”
According to the SEC, as head of A Better Financial Plan, Vagnozzi encouraged the public to “invest like the big boys,” and touted his firm as a place to buy life settlements. He claimed they were the “highest yielding, safe” investments in the market, according to the SEC.
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