SEC charges a Georgia man with operating a decade-long Ponzi scheme that made more than $110 million

People walking out of the SEC building US Securities and Exchange Commission

The SEC is charging a Georgia man with allegedly operating a decade-long Ponzi scheme that raised more than $US110 ($AU151) million from over 400 investors.

The securities regulator filed an emergency action last Friday to stop the Ponzi scheme that it alleges was perpetrated by Georgia resident John Woods and the two entities he controls: registered investment adviser Southport Capital and investment fund Horizon Private Equity.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Woods and other Southport investment adviser representatives told clients they would receive returns of 6%-7%, guaranteed for two to three years if they invested in the Horizon fund. But the fund is an entity that Woods used for the sole purpose of raising money from investors in the Ponzi scheme, said the SEC.

“Many of the victims are elderly retirees who were preyed upon by investment advisers” at Southport, the SEC said.

Through the scheme, Woods paid existing investors the guaranteed returns by raising money from new investors, alleges the regulator. The SEC also said Woods’ Ponzi scheme continues to raise money from new investors each month.

“The assets owned by Woods and the entities under his control, including Southport and Horizon, are worth far too little for there to be any realistic prospect that the Ponzi scheme will be able to pay back existing investors their principal, let alone the promised returns,” said the complaint. “Investors trusted Woods and the Southport investment advisers working at his direction, and they stand to lose significant portions of their retirement savings when the Ponzi scheme inevitably collapses.”

The SEC’s complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. On Tuesday the court granted a temporary restraining order and asset freeze with respect to Woods and Horizon and ordered expedited discovery with respect to Southport, among other relief.