The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Clifton Curtis Sneed Jr., a recidivist securities law violator based in Texas, with defrauding investment advisory clients out of more than $1 million.
According to the SEC, Sneed held himself out to clients, some of whom he met by targeting members of churches, as an investment expert who would help them earn guaranteed outsized returns and achieve financial independence if they became members of his sole proprietorship, The Trade Group (TTG). Clients paid Sneed an upfront fee to join TTG, which the SEC claims was a scam.
The SEC’s complaint states that Sneed marketed TTG in multiple states using flyers, phone calls, in-person seminars, e-mails, and on his website, with a particular emphasis on targeting pastors and churchgoers. He also employed salespeople to broaden his marketing activities across the United States and trained them on how to market his advisory services.
In an e-book Sneed distributed to clients, he stated that, “TTG was created to give Christians an opportunity to live a wealthy and prosperous life…In addition to providing exclusive investment-related advice, private banking goes far beyond managing investments to address a client’s entire financial situation. Services include: protecting and growing assets in the present, providing specialized financing solution [sic], creating off-shore accounts for planning retirement and passing wealth on to future generations.”
As alleged in the SEC’s complaint, Sneed actively concealed his lengthy criminal and regulatory history, falsely claimed to hold numerous financial certifications, and failed to disclose that he was being paid commissions from companies he recommended to clients.
The SEC alleges that, while Sneed’s clients lost at least approximately $1.1 million, he received more than $400,000 in fees and undisclosed commissions.
Sneed’s recidivist history includes pleading guilty to felony securities fraud and other securities violations in Utah and being ordered to cease and desist from securities offerings in multiple states on numerous occasions from 2006 through 2018, including for committing fraud in violation of state securities laws.
The SEC previously charged Sneed with violating the antifraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws. In order to resolve the action, he agreed to be enjoined from violating the charged provisions. The complaint alleges that he failed to disclose this history to clients.
The SEC seeks a permanent injunction, a conduct-based injunction, disgorgement of allegedly ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty.
In November 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Sneed for much of the same conduct alleged in the SEC’s complaint.