Ad Marketer Can’t Block SEC’s $4.3M Fraud Suit On Gaming, Jets

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By Jennifer Bennett

An online advertising firm owner must face SEC allegations of securities fraud, including spending investor money on private jets, online gaming, and cosmetic surgery, a federal judge said.

Pedro Fort Berbel, owner of Florida-based Fort Marketing Group LLC, can’t block a Securities and Exchange Commission suit alleging unregistered securities sales and misappropriation of investor funds after the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Feb. 27 denied his motion to dismiss. The SEC can sue Berbel in his individual capacity because he allegedly used corporate funds for personal purchases, U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno said.

Berbel sold unregistered “Ad Packs” investment contracts through his company, raising about $38 million from U.S. and foreign investors, according to the SEC’s September 2017 complaint. He then diverted about $4.3 million for personal use—including spending over $737,000 on private jets, over $401,000 on jewelry, $177,000 on online gaming (which the court described as gambling), and around $10,000 on personal care and cosmetic surgery, the SEC said.

Berbel’s attorney, Miami, Fla.-based Arthur J. Jones, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is SEC v. Berbel , 2018 BL 65970, S.D. Fla., No. 17-23572-CIV-MORENO, 2/26/18 .

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