ATLANTA (AP) — A financial adviser who’s been on the run for nearly two years has been ordered to pay $12 million to his victims in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.
The default judgment was recently entered in a lawsuit brought by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission against Christopher Burns and his companies: Investus Advisers LLC, which did business as Dynamic Money; Investus Financial LLC and Peer Connect LLC. And Burns, if he is ever found, is also liable for a civil penalty of $652,629.
It’s unclear, though, how much, if anything, Burns’ victims will ever see, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The once-prominent investment adviser is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, accused of bilking his clients out of millions of dollars. The day he vanished — Sept. 25, 2020 — was the day he was supposed to turn over documents about his dealings to SEC regulators.
Federal court documents indicate there was some money in various bank accounts for his businesses, frozen by court order after his disappearance. And Burns’ ex-wife agreed to return $320,000 in funds he had transferred to her.
But federal officials say most of the investors’ money was spent to finance Burns’ lifestyle, cover business expenses and repay earlier investors, to create the appearance that investments he sold were profitable.
Burns had a high profile in the Atlanta metro area. He had a weekly radio program, the Chris Burns Show, and appeared on TV offering financial advice. But the SEC’s suit said for years Burns sold fraudulent promissory notes to more than 90 investors in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.
The notes, he claimed, were for a “peer to peer” lending program, where businesses in need of capital would borrow money. In return, Burns told investors that businesses would repay the principal, plus interest as high as 20%. He also told clients the investment had little or no risk because the loans were collateralized dollar for dollar by investment securities put up by the businesses.
Federal officials said the lending program was a scam.
Still pending against Burns is a federal criminal complaint, charging him with mail fraud. There’s been no action in that case since Oct. 23, 2020, when it was filed.
The SEC declined a request for comment from the newspaper. Attorneys representing investors in a separate lawsuit did not respond to a request for comment, the newspaper said.