Colorado Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome has announced his retirement following a year-long investigation by Dolcefino Consulting.
The Houston-based Investigative Communications firm has been locked in a legal battle with Rome after he tried to conceal records detailing the small amount of money actually recovered for Colorado fraud victims, while the longtime Colorado bureaucrat ran the Division of Securities.
Rome refused to release critical records for months detailing the dismal collection results, and many of the records the office did finally release raised questions about the millions Rome’s office had spent on these securities investigations in the first place.
While Rome has been Securities Commissioner, press releases from the Department of Regulatory Services showcased major court judgments against alleged scammers, a veritable windfall for fraud victims and Colorado taxpayers.
Through more than a year of investigating under the Colorado Open Records Act, Dolcefino Consulting reviewed the 187 million dollars won by the Securities Division since 2008. Only 3 million dollars, less than 2 percent of the money, was ever returned to a fraud victim.
While Rome was commissioner there had been 42.6 million dollars in court judgments for fraud victims. Only $2,143,000 had actually been collected, and that includes money siphoned off by lawyers hired to find the money.
Victims of several Colorado fraud cases bemoaned the fact they got checks of only 6 dollars every few months, despite losing millions. In many cases, the judgments were put on scammers for headlines, even though the Division of Securities knew the money was long gone while they were spending lots of taxpayer money in court.
The investigation has also exposed another dirty little secret about these fraud cases ignored by the Colorado media. Lawyers assigned by the courts to collect the money from rip-off artists often end up making a lot more money than any of the fraud victims do.
In one case we found, a court receiver didn’t collect a penny for the victims of the scam, but he billed 500,000 dollars for the effort. In a case where 11 million dollars was recovered, the lawyers tab was nearly half at $5,000,000.
Rome had bragged in DORA news releases about his collection efforts, but the records documented virtually no effort to help ensure fraud victims got financial justice.
Just this past Monday, Dolcefino Consulting filed a series of new CORA requests for public records detailing communications between Rome and his boss, DORA Executive Director Marguerite Salazar, along with email communications between Salazar and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. The announcement of Rome’s departure also came Monday.
On December 18th, 2018, a Colorado judge in Denver has set a hearing date in the open records lawsuit filed by Dolcefino Consulting.
“Gerald Rome has fought public disclosure every single step of the way, but our investigation has exposed a real weakness in the way Colorado seeks justice for fraud victims,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Fraud victims don’t get their lives back with paper victories, and if the money is gone, spending millions chasing headlines makes no sense.”
At the same time Rome’s office continued to pursue securities cases for technical violations of the law for years, even when targets had long gone out of business, or in one case, had died.
“In my view, the Colorado general assembly needs to take a long hard look about the money being spent chasing after folks who are often long gone, and the Division of Securities needs to focus only on real crooks, and not engage in expensive legal battles over technical rules,” says Dolcefino. “Most importantly, stop bragging about big legal victories you know Coloradans will never really see. It’s not honest.”
A Colorado State District Judge has set a rare court hearing in the legal battle between Dolcefino Consulting and Colorado Securities Boss Gerald Rome.
What does the Colorado Attorney General do next? Threaten us.
Dolcefino Consulting filed a lawsuit against the Division of Securities in May claiming they violated the Colorado Open Records Act.
Colorado had refused to produce records detailing the truth about how little money was being collected for Colorado fraud victims. Instead, the Colorado Attorney General’s office demanded to know who asked us to get the records.
In a letter to Dolcefino Consulting, the Colorado Attorney General’s office says they will make us pay for over $6,000 in legal fees if we do not drop our lawsuit, claiming they have worked over 60 hours defending this case so far.
“The Assistant Attorney General calls us arbitrary, abusive, even vexatious, a fancy word that means annoying apparently,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “We will see them in court, but Colorado taxpayers wouldn’t have had to spend a penny on this case if the Attorney General’s office read the law and didn’t try to find out why we were asking instead.”
A formal opinion by former Attorney General of Colorado Ken Salazar should have been pretty clear. “You are not obligated to explain the reason you want any record. You do not have to discuss who you are or what you will do with the record.”
The letter from the Colorado AG’s office does confirm a key portion of our investigation. Dolcefino Consulting has shown that press releases issued by Rome’s office about big financial judgments for victims of fraud in Colorado are exaggerated. The AG letter suggests Rome isn’t talking about real, actual money collected.
Our investigation has also shown Rome’s office has spent millions of dollars on cases where there was no “actual money” to even collect. We have also shown lawyers assigned by courts in some of these fraud cases are making a lot more money than fraud victims are.
The hearing in Judge Martin Egelhoff’s courtroom will take place at 9 A.M. on December 17th at the District courthouse in Denver, Colorado.
We think fraud victims of Colorado scammers deserve better from Securities commissioner Gerald Rome!
More than 16 months ago Dolcefino Consulting was forced to file a lawsuit under the Colorado open records act called “CORA.”
We filed the suit because Dolcefino Consulting made four valid requests for public records in our investigation of Rome’s frequent bragging of success in returning money to fraud victims
Our investigation found the securities division had a horrible record of getting people their money back. Less than three percent of the money ripped off, and Rome fought us every step of the way. Our investigation shows court appointed lawyers are getting much of the money that is recovered, not the victims.
“Securities commissioner Gerald Rome has fought our efforts to warn Colorado fraud victims about the abject failure to get them financial justice”, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.” It is time for the Colorado legislature to step in.”
We want a Judge in Colorado to set a hearing, so we can take our fight to end secrecy straight to Gerald Rome and the Colorado Attorney General.
If the Colorado Division of Securities ever investigated itself, Commissioner Gerald Rome should have to explain why they aren’t carrying out a “pump and dump” scheme on Colorado fraud victims.
Rome polices Colorado’s financial world. He pumps up his successes, but now tries to hide information from the public, bullies’ people who ask questions, and by all appearances gets a tiny return for his main investors: the Colorado taxpayers.
Dolcefino Consulting has been investigating Rome and the Colorado securities agency for over a year. Since 2011, official records show a truly dismal collection rate from fraud cases. Only $3 million of the $122 million dollars that was supposed to go to fraud victims —orders bragged about in an endless parade of press releases noted carefully by the Colorado media.
Scammer Michael Brian Kass is the perfect example.
Kass and Bela Geczy’s front company, Dharma Investments, didn’t live up to its Boulder-friendly, good vibey namesake. The Ponzi scheme took nearly 300 investors for over $18 million before the Division of Securities filed suit against its owners. Kass only did two and a half years of a ten-year sentence and is now on parole marketing himself on the internet as a Life Coach.
So, what happened to the all that money Kass and Geczy had to pay back? Has Rome done a thing to help folks get their restitution?
A judge ordered $11.4 million to be paid in restitution in the criminal case against Kass and Geczy. In the civil case, the Denver District Court appointed a receiver, John C. Smiley, who billed nearly $500,000 on the case.
Kass and Geczy only returned a small fraction of the money spent chasing them. Just $68,000. Victims like Francoise Netter get an occasional six-dollar check.
“I probably will be dead before it all comes back,” said Netter. “I will be long dead before it all comes back. At six dollars and twenty-two cents every three months.
Our investigation found this pattern across nearly all of Rome’s highest-value judgements.
Taxpayers beware. If a NASDAQ company posted percentages like Rome’s it would make the Wall Street Journal’s front page. The Division of Securities soaks up $3.5 million a year and spends nearly $1 million a year prosecuting fraud cases. Add in a taxpayer-funded jail sentence and you have to wonder of a six-dollar victim check is worth the millions of public dollars the Division of Securities costs.
From the information we’ve been given, Rome’s office dumps the case once it gets a judgement. There is not a single e-mail we found showing Rome ever communicated with the Colorado Collections Services, county court collections investigators, or fraud victims to make sure they got their money back.
Dolcefino Consulting has tried to find out more about Rome’s operations, but the public agency has put up a brick wall of silence. As reported by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, Rome refused to give up public records unless Dolcefino told Rome who we work for – a clear violation of the Colorado Open Records Act, which President Wayne Dolcefino filed a lawsuit over.
In a post-Bernie Madoff world, citizens like to know someone is angling for the business world’s great white-collar sharks.
Catching them is just part of the job. Remembering the victims is the biggest part.
A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY
A growing number of Colorado fraud victims are going public with their criticism of Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome.
Take the case of Seth Weiss.
Look at this headline.
Rome boasted in a press release about a 13.2 million-dollar judgement his office got from Seth Weiss, the owner of Genie Lens Technology.
Weiss had lied to investors that he was doing so well he had 1 million dollars, but it turned out it was more like 750 dollars.
Jennifer Atler was a close friend of Seth Weiss, but her family became victims too, losing 200 thousand dollars.
“I mean, it’s terrible. It’s just, it’s a broken trust and it’s terrible, terrible,” said Atler. “And I think it’s a lack of justice that nothing has been received for the people from whom he stole that money.”
Remember, the date of the Rome victory lap was Oct. 8, 2015.
So why did Rome fight our request to simply see how much of that big judgement Colorado had collected after three years. What’s the big secret?
Now we know. Rome admits Colorado hasn’t collected a penny. Worse, there’s evidence Rome’s office knew there was no money, so why brag about it?
“I think what I was hoping for was a criminal prosecution that would have meted out some sort of justice even more than the money, but of course I would love to get our money back,” said Atler.
The investigation by Dolcefino Consulting has already exposed bureaucratic breakdown for victims of fraud. Rome refuses to sit down for an interview citing a lawsuit filed by Dolcefino Consulting over the production of public records.
“It is becoming increasingly obvious that Mr. Rome is giving Coloradoans a false sense of security. The record of collections against fraudster is simply unacceptable,” said Wayne Dolcefino, president of Dolcefino Consulting. “Mr. Rome has the obligation to make sure if he’s going to brag about big money he won for Coloradoans he better care about what happens next.”
Dolcefino Consulting investigation has already proven that the collection of money for fraud victims is abysmal. Since 2008, 187 million dollars has been by the Security commissioner. Less than 3 million has been paid.
Since Rome has become security commissioner the amount of money won for fraud victims has dropped dramatically.
The Weiss case is the biggest judgement Rome has won since he took the office in 2014. Colorado hasn’t collected a penny. Seth Weiss still lives in a 1.2-million-dollar home in Englewood, Colorado outside Denver.
“I’ve had no communication,” said Atler. “I’ve heard nothing from the state to my knowledge that I can recall.”
For over a year, The Colorado Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome has been hiding the truth.
Enough is Enough.
Dolcefino Consulting has filed a lawsuit in Denver accusing Commissioner Rome of breaking Colorado open records laws and providing false information about his true success in protecting victims of fraud. We have been investigating the Rome record for over a year. In 2014, Rome bragged to taxpayers about how successful he was in collecting monies owed to taxpayers and victims by some of Colorado’s biggest fraudsters.
Talk is cheap. The truth is a lot uglier.
Since 2011, official records of the Colorado Securities Division show a truly dismal collection rate from fraud cases. 122 million dollars owed to the people of Colorado. A little more than 3 million dollars collected. What’s worse, our investigation has uncovered a bureaucratic nightmare, a systematic failure to properly collect from the crooks.
Rome now claims his office has never even communicated with the Colorado Collections Services – the state’s private collections agency – on any of the cases he prosecuted. Not one.
Rome doesn’t even count what the separate county collections agencies are doing. In fact, based on the few records we have seen, he doesn’t even keep up with their efforts. During review of courthouse records in early May, we asked Jefferson, Boulder, and Denver counties for the balances on several high-dollar fraud cases. We have learned the few documents Rome’s office provided are wrong, but there is one constant. Court collection officers say they aren’t receiving information from the Securities Division that could help find where the money is buried.
In Denver District Court alone, we examined the high-dollar fraud cases of Michael Marshall, Gregory Russell, Sean Michael Mueller, and Michael Mendenhall. Together those four defendants alone owe Colorado taxpayers $90 Million Dollars.
You know how much money has been collected of that ninety million dollars? Ten thousand dollars. Two cases in Boulder revealed the same pattern. Millions owed, pennies collected, in part because no one seems to be sharing information with anyone else.
“The taxpayers of Colorado deserve to know about this systematic failure to get the people the money they were promised,” says Dolcefino. “What makes this worse is that Rome refuses to provide evidence he even bothered to look for the records he now claims he doesn’t have.”
Dolcefino Consulting filed a request in February 2018 asking for documents showing any attempts the division made to communicate with the Colorado Collections Agency. It took the division five hours to respond and say they had nothing to show us, not a single e-mail. What kind of government agency-wide research can YOU get done in five hours? Exactly.
In response to a similar request last August, the division denied us public records unless Dolcefino Consulting identified who we were asking for. We believe that is a violation of the public right to know. It just doesn’t cut the legal mustard to tell a citizen “who wants to know?” You’d think Commissioner Gerald Rome, who used to be First Assistant Attorney General, would know that.
“We look forward to our day in court,” says Dolcefino. “The Colorado legislature should be asking some tough questions too. What’s the point of spending millions of dollars chasing fraudsters, bragging that you won all this money, and then never caring if a dime is collected?Colorado Complaint
Gerald “Jerry” Rome has been Colorado Securities Commissioner for nearly four years. The self-proclaimed consumer watchdog boasts of huge court victories exposing fraud, telling Colorado taxpayers they have been rewarded with tens of millions of dollars.
Now there’s a startling confession.
Mr. Rome doesn’t lift a finger to ever collect the money.
The admission came after Dolcefino Consulting requested documents detailing any efforts by Colorado regulators to collect nearly $40 million in civil judgements and restitution awards.
Within five work hours, Colorado admitted there aren’t any.
Last week, Dolcefino Consulting put Rome on notice. Cough up any public records you are hiding in the next 14 days or face a legal challenge.
“Either Mr. Rome is intentionally hiding public records, or he should apologize to taxpayers for grossly misrepresenting the success of his agency,” says Wayne Dolcefino, president of the Houston based investigative communications firm.
The securities division won a recent court judgement against Heartland Energy, even though the alleged fraud occurred 16 years ago. One of the principals in the legal fight is Joel Kinlaw.
Dead men don’t pay judgements. Kinlaw has been dead for seven years.
In October of 2015, there was a $10 million dollar judgement against John Koral, of a company called U.S. Capitol. Records show not a penny has been collected. The company had filed bankruptcy five years before the judgement.
A 2011 case resulted in an $11 million restitution award for the securities division against Dharma Investment Group co-owner, Bela Geczy. Geczy, was sentenced to eight years in prison. Colorado admits no effort has been made to collect a penny.
A 2011 case resulted in a $74 million restitution award for the securities division against Denver hedge fund manager, Sean Mueller. Records released by the securities division show no money has been collected on that award either. Mueller, will be in prison for more than two decades.
Dolcefino Consulting has already proven less than 3 percent of those promised taxpayer gold mines have ever materialized.
The Colorado Division of Securities isn’t shy about promoting their alleged success stories cracking down on white collar fraud. Officials in the Department of Regulatory Agency routinely take turns congratulating each other in news releases.
One big problem. They are grossly exaggerating their financial success for Colorado taxpayers.
Take Securities Commissioner Jerry Rome.
Since he became head of the agency in 2014, he has spent three times more money prosecuting cases than they have really collected for Coloradans.
In October of 2015, the Securities Commissioner was thanked for the $10-million-dollar judgement against John Koral of a company called U.S. Capitol. The company had filed bankruptcy five years before. Records provided by the Securities Division shows as of this Spring, investors and taxpayers have never gotten a penny from the court decision. It is not clear what efforts, if any, the Securities Division took to actually get the money back.
“Commissioner Rome should put out the real story. Are these long investigations paying off for Colorado taxpayers and the investors who really lose money,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of the investigative communications firm in Houston, Texas. “What’s the point of promoting all this money you won, if you never plan to collect it?”
Dolcefino is a former investigative reporter with 30 Emmys, and multiple other investigative awards to his credits. His firm exposes government waste and corruption.
Since 2011, official records of the Colorado Securities Division actually show a truly dismal collection rate from fraud cases.
A spreadsheet provided by the Division of Securities shows the agency won judgements and court orders totaling more than $122 million dollars for investors and Colorado taxpayers. There are dozens of news releases promoting the cases and the victories.
You know how much they have collected in the agency?
A little more than 3 million dollars.
“The legislature should take a hard look at the priorities of the division, and whether getting judgements against people that are long gone and not paying accomplishes anything. It will be interesting to see how many cases they have lost, or if this a game of bragging about money no one will ever see,” says Dolcefino.
This coming year the budget of the Division of Securities is more than 3.5 million dollars.