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October 26, 10

NEWS / Garfield Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Investors Who Bought Stock in His Horseshoe Manufacturing V


Hundreds of investors lost $1.7 million in failed venture

TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a Bergen County man has pleaded guilty to defrauding investors by selling unregistered shares of stock in his startup horseshoe manufacturing company and misappropriating investor funds for his personal use. Hundreds of investors lost a total of $1.7 million.

According to Director Taylor, Samuel M. Serritella, 66, of Garfield, pleaded guilty to a second-degree charge of securities fraud before Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Roma in Bergen County. The charge was contained in a March 23, 2010 state grand jury indictment. Under the plea agreement, Serritella faces a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, and must sign a consent judgment to pay $1.7 million in restitution to the investors he defrauded. Judge Roma scheduled sentencing for Serritella for Jan. 14, 2011.

Deputy Attorney General Francine S. Ehrenberg prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau. The charges resulted from an investigation by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities and the Division of Criminal Justice.

Serritella was president, chief financial officer and chairman of International Surfacing Inc., based at 5 Erie Street in Garfield. Between February 2002 and May 2008, Serritella obtained approximately $1.7 million from more than 300 investors by selling them shares of International Surfacing. The shares were not registered with the Bureau of Securities as required by law, and Serritella was not registered as an agent authorized to sell securities in New Jersey.

Most investors were from New Jersey, and many of them were police officers and firefighters. Serritella represented that he was manufacturing therapeutic horseshoes with a cushioning layer of rubber on them. He held investment conferences where he told investors they could get in on the ground floor by purchasing shares in a company he planned to take public. He told at least one group of investors during a hotel meeting that the venture’s clients included a prince in Dubai who purchased the shoes for his camels. He also falsely claimed that they were being used by Olympic competitors and would be used in the Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The state’s investigation revealed that Serritella misappropriated more than $350,000 in investor funds to pay for personal expenses. Although he used some funds for startup costs for the company, including renting a building and paying salaries, he never purchased the necessary equipment and tools to manufacture the horseshoes, and the venture failed.

Serritella deposited the investors’ funds into several bank accounts that he controlled. He wrote checks to himself, made cash withdrawals at ATMs, paid credit card bills, and made debit card purchases using investor funds in the accounts. He used the funds to pay for such personal expenses as airline and hotel bills, tavern bills, and medical costs. He also used investor funds to make personal loans to friends totaling $64,000.

The Bureau of Securities investigation was conducted by Chief of Investigations Rudolph Bassman. Deputy Attorney General Victoria Manning represented the Bureau in its investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Ehrenberg and Detective Michael Fallon handled the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau.

At the time that Serritella was initially charged by complaint in July 2009, New Jersey Bureau of Securities Chief Marc B. Minor issued an order assessing a penalty of $20,000 against Serritella for violation of the New Jersey Uniform Securities Law. The Bureau Chief found that Serritella committed securities fraud and sold unregistered securities as an unregistered agent.

Bureau Chief Minor noted that anyone offering to sell securities in the state must be registered with the New Jersey Bureau of Securities. In many instances, the security itself must also be registered before it can be offered to investors. He urged investors to check with the Bureau of Securities before investing to see if the security and the person offering it are registered.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20101025b.html

 




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