TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that an unregistered investment adviser has been charged with stealing $644,000 from 24 investors he recruited to invest in an unregulated commodities trading group he founded called Think Big Institute, LLC (“Think Big”).
Officials said Scott Nicholson, 53, of North Haledon was charged yesterday by complaint-summons with second-degree theft by unlawful taking, second-degree misconduct by a corporate official, and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.
He was initially investigated by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, which referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau for criminal investigation.
Simultaneously yesterday the Bureau of Securities found that Nicholson and Think Big operated a fraud against investors and issued a Cease and Desist Order against them to prevent further violations of the New Jersey Uniform Securities Law.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Nicholson, from 2008 through 2017, Nicholson recruited a group of 24 investors to invest in Think Big.
Nicholson acted as an unregistered investment adviser solely responsible for investment decisions in Think Big. Eventually,
Think Big incurred substantial losses, due in part to failed investments. Around that time, Nicholson allegedly began to misappropriate investor monies by withdrawing existing investment monies and new investments in Think Big for his personal benefit.
From Jan. 15, 2013 through Feb. 16, 2018, Nicholson allegedly withdrew a total of $644,952 for his personal benefit.
Of those monies, $373,823 allegedly was transferred by Nicholson to his personal checking account, and $271,129 allegedly was used to pay Nicholson’s personal expenses directly from the Think Big account.
The complaint further alleges that Nicholson hid substantial investment losses by Think Big by creating fraudulent investment statements showing false positive returns.
The 24 investors lost $471,602, representing the amount of their principal investments less dividends they received.
“We are committed to protecting New Jersey investors by aggressively investigating and prosecuting those who engage in investment fraud,” said Attorney General Grewal.
“We will hold dishonest operators accountable through criminal prosecutions, where appropriate, as well as civil actions by the Bureau of Securities.”
“Thefts of the type alleged here can have a devastating impact on investors, who may be counting on the invested funds for a secure financial future,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice.
“We urge individuals who believe they have been defrauded to contact the Division of Criminal Justice at 866-TIPS-4CJ.
We will continue to work with the Bureau of Securities to protect investors and ensure that individuals who engage in fraud face justice.”
“Protecting investors against fraud and other unlawful conduct in New Jersey's financial services industry is a top priority for the Bureau of Securities,” said Christopher W. Gerold, Chief of the New Jersey Bureau of Securities.
“We will continue to investigate and take action against individuals who undermine the integrity of the industry by financially preying on the investors who trust them.”
The criminal complaint against Nicholson is posted at: www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases21/Nicholson_Criminal_Complaint.pdf
The summary order issued by the Bureau of Securities is posted at: www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases21/Nicholson_Summary_Order.pdf
Deputy Attorney Janet Bosi is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and Bureau Chief Jillian Carpenter.
The lead detective on the case is Detective Roxanna Ordonez-Fresse, who was assisted by Analyst Bhumi Patel, under the supervision of Lt. Vincent Gaeta.
The investigation by the Bureau of Securities was supervised and conducted by Deputy Bureau Chief Amy Kopleton, Chief of Enforcement Richard Szuch, Supervising Investigator Michael McElgunn, and Investigators Michael LaChappelle and Maureen Morin.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.