SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah men who met in prison while serving time for unrelated fraud schemes were charged in federal court over a fraudulent trading program one of them claimed to have received in a “spiritual revelation,” according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Thomas J. Robbins, of Heber City, and Daniel J. Merriman, of Kaysville, and two other men allegedly bilked 80 investors of $11 million, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
Robbins and Merriman solicited investor funds through false and misleading representations, including that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a client, that they had consistently generated large returns for prior investors, and that investors could expect profits of at least 20% per month, the complaint says.
The two men told investors that Robbins had a “spiritual revelation” in 2008 about an exclusive algorithm for trading currencies, commodities, indices, stocks, bonds and other instruments, but could not bring the vision to reality until 2011 when the technology caught up to his vision, according to the complaint.
Robbins and Merriman met while incarcerated and created the trading program after being released.
In 2011, Robbins was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $2.4 million in restitution after pleading guilty to conspiracy in an investment fraud scheme.
Merriman was sent to prison in 2009 after being convicted of three felony counts of securities fraud.
Robbins, 65, and Merriman, 50, frequently referenced their religious faith as Latter-day Saints to develop rapport with prospective investors, the complaint says.
They also told investors Robbins was an experienced investment banker who had worked in Europe and taken at least seven companies public and whose clients included the Rothschilds, Kennedys, the royal family of Thailand and several major banks.
Since August 2016, every investor whose funds were traded by Robbins and Merriman lost virtually all of their money within a matter of weeks, or months at the longest, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges Robbins and Merriman worked with Clark J. Madsen and Mark W. Wiseman, both of Sandy, to devise a scheme to fraudulently sell millions of shares of stock in ConTXT, a technology company founded by Madsen.
Despite knowing of Robbins’ and Merriman’s criminal convictions and their failure to pay investors in their trading program, Madsen, 47, and Wiseman, 44, entered into an agreement for them to raise funds for ConTXT and take the company public, the complaint says.
Robbins and Merriman worked as officers and directors of ConTXT and had complete financial control of the company, according to the complaint. They concealed their criminal convictions knowing that if they were public it would make it more difficult to raise money and would require additional disclosures should ConTXT become a public company.
The SEC complaint charges all four men with securities violations. Robbins and Merriman are also charged with violating broker-dealer registration provisions.
Without admitting or denying the allegations, each of them agreed to a final judgment requiring them to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegally obtained funds with interest as well as fines.
In a parallel criminal action related to the trading program, Robbins pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering and was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $10.1 in restitution last July.