Attention Victims of Horizon Private Equity Ponzi Scheme and Former Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. Broker John Woods

Were you the victim of the Horizon Private Equity Ponzi Scheme and former Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. Broker John Woods (CRD# 1949233)? Erez Law is currently investigating Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. for its role in enabling a massive $110 million Ponzi scheme “Horizon Private Equity,” which was orchestrated by a Georgia resident and former Oppenheimer registered representative John Woods. It is alleged that more than 400 investors in 20 states have been victims of the Ponzi Scheme, which is said to be ongoing and still continuing to raise money from new investors each month. If you were a customer of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. and invested in Horizon Private Equity we are interested in speaking with you confidentially.

Timeline of the Horizon Private Equity Ponzi Scheme

Previously, John Woods was registered with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia from 2003 to 2016. Southport Capital is an investment adviser firm that Woods was the President and majority owner of until he was terminated in August 2021 regarding, “Mr. Mooney is being investigated for an alleged Ponzi scheme.”

In August 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed an emergency action to stop a Ponzi scheme allegedly perpetrated by John Woods and the two entities he controls: registered investment adviser Livingston Group Asset Management Company, d/b/a Southport Capital (Southport), and investment fund Horizon Private Equity, III LLC (Horizon). The SEC’s complaint charges Woods and his companies with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. According to the announcement, the complaint seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, civil penalties, an asset freeze, and the appointment of a receiver.

In August 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened an investigation into John Woods for an alleged Ponzi scheme that has been in operation for more than a decade. According to John Woods’ BrokerCheck, “Many of the victims are elderly retirees who were preyed upon by investment advisers at Southport, a registered investment adviser firm owned and controlled by Woods… Woods and his cohorts at Southport generally told investors that Horizon would earn a return by investing their money in, for example, government bonds, stocks, or small real estate projects; investors were not told that their money would or could be used to pay returns to earlier investors. But that is exactly what the Defendants did, they were only able to pay the guaranteed returns to existing investors by raising and using new investor money. Horizon has not earned any significant profits from legitimate investments; instead a very large percentage of purported “returns” to earlier investors were simply paid out of new investor money. 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. Because the scheme has been going on for so long, and because Woods, Southport, and Horizon did not use any of the typical recordkeeping practices one would expect from a legitimate investment fund, millions of dollars’ worth of investor funds are currently unaccounted for.”

In June 2022, the SEC filed civil fraud charges against Mooney and  two other co-conspirators for their role in the Ponzi scheme fraud.

In September 2022, FINRA ordered Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. to pay $36.7 million to 10 harmed investors related to their involvement in the Horizon Private Equity II Ponzi Scheme, which included $ 5.7 million in compensatory damages, $11.4 million in punitive damages, $14.1 million in RICO damages, $98,655.96 in costs, and $5.3 million in lawyers fees. According to the award, the claimants asserted the following: violations of FINRA Rules; negligence; breach of fiduciary duty; violation of the Georgia RICO statute; and breach of contract. The investors initially sought $6 million in compensatory damages, RICO damages in an amount three times the actual damages sustained, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs of investigation and litigation, pre-judgment interest, and costs.

How did the scheme work? Who did it target?

The scheme was orchestrated through John Woods’ firm Southport Capital between 2008 and 2016. It is alleged that elderly investors were targeted for this scheme. According to online records, Horizon Private Equity does not have offices or employees; all activities have been conducted by Woods and the employees of Southport.

Additionally, it is alleged that John Woods and other investment adviser representatives at Southport Capital, including John Woods’ brother Jim Woods, told clients that they would receive returns of 6-7% interest, guaranteed for two to three years, for investments in “Horizon Private Equity.” 

According to the SEC, “Woods, Southport, and other Southport investment adviser representatives allegedly told investors – including many elderly retirees – that their Horizon investments were safe, would be used for different investment activities, would pay a fixed rate of return, and that investors could get their principal back without penalty after a short waiting period. According to the complaint, however, these statements were false and misleading: Horizon did not earn any significant profits from legitimate investments, and a very large percentage of purported “returns” to earlier investors were simply paid out of new investor money. The complaint also alleges that Woods repeatedly lied to the SEC during regulatory examinations of Southport.”

According to public records, investors were not told that their investment would be used to pay returns to earlier investors in a Ponzi-like manner. 

Erez Law Files Complaint Against Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. and Broker John Woods

Erez Law recently filed a FINRA arbitration against Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. and broker John Woods related to his involvement in the alleged Ponzi-scheme. The Erez Law clients, who were one of 400 victims of the alleged fraudulent scheme, alleges that John Woods solicited the couple to invest over a million dollars of their irreplaceable savings in Horizon Private Equity II. Regrettably for the clients, the investments in Horizon Private Equity II are now worthless as the investment has been publicly exposed as a Ponzi scheme and John Woods and his co-conspirators have been charged with fraud by the SEC. 

It is alleged that John Woods represented that Horizon Private Equity II was a safe investment that had never missed a dividend payment and would preserve the principal while generating a consistent return which the clients could use to meet income needs in retirement. Erez Law alleges that John Woods also solicited the clients to invest in Horizon Private Equity II by making false and misleading representations. 

Investors did not learn of John Woods’ fraud or their catastrophic financial losses until after August 2021, when the SEC filed fraud charges against him and Horizon Private Equity II. According to the claim, the clients have lost all of their principal invested in Horizon Private Equity II. It is alleged that Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. failed to satisfy its basic supervisory obligations and the clients and hundreds of other unsuspecting victims have suffered devastating losses as a result.  

John Woods Customer Complaints

John Woods has been the subject of 32 customer complaints between 2008 and 2022, one of which was denied, according to his CRD report. Recent complaint are regarding: 

November 2022. “Claimants allege John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2003 to 2016.” The customer sought $300,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

September 2022. “Claimants allege John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2003 – 2016.” The customer sought $900,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

September 2022. “Claimants allege John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2003 – 2016.”  The customer sought $1,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

August 2022. “Claimant alleges that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2007-2021.” The customer sought $104,100 in damages in this pending complaint. 

July 2022. “Claimants allege John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme. 2003-2016.” The customer sought $2,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

April 2022. “Claimants allege John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2013-2021.” The customer sought $1,372,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

April 2022. “Claimant alleges John Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2008-2021.” The customer sought $170,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

April 2022. “Claimants allege John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2012-2021.” The customer sought $1,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

April 2022. “Claimant alleges that John Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme. From 2008-2021.” The customer sought $170,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

April 2022. “Claimant alleges that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme. 2014-2021.” The customer sought $288,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

March 2022. “Claimants allege that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme, 2012-2021.” The customer sought $3,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

March 2022. “Claimant alleges John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme, 2013-2020.” The customer sought $394,200 in damages in this pending complaint. 

March 2022. “Claimants allege that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme, 2012-2021.” The customer sought $4,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

March 2022. “Claimants allege that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme, 2014-2016.” The customer sought $1,200,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

February 2022. “Claimant alleges that John J. Woods, Michael Jeremiah Mooney and James Wallace Woods conducted a Ponzi scheme, 2008 to 2021.” The customer sought $300,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

January 2022. “Claimant alleges that former employees John Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme to 2008-2016 (at Oppenheimer).” The customer sought $942,126 in damages in this pending complaint. 

January 2022. “Former employees John Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme. To 2005-2016 ( at Oppenheimer).” The customer sought $1,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

December 2021. “Former FAs John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney, with the involvement of Iris Israel and Julie Jones, allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme. To 2005-2016 ( at Oppenheimer).” The customer sought $5,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

December 2021. “Former FAs John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December, 2016. to 2015- December, 2016 (at OPCO, allegedly until 2021 post-OPCO).” The customer sought $470,000 in damages in this pending complaint.  

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. From 2012 – 2016.” The customer sought $2,500,000 in damages in this pending complaint.  

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Arthur Brown, Iris Israel and Julie Jones allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. Time period from 2013 – 2020.” The customer sought $510,000 in damages in this pending complaint.

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. Time period from 2012 – 2016.” The customer sought $1,000,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. From 2008 – 2016.” The customer sought $700,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. From 2008 – 2016.” The customer sought $3,300,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. March 2012 – September 2015.” The customer sought $3,300,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

November 2021. “Clients’ attorney alleges misconduct, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. No time period specified, but subject accounts opened during 2012 and fa left firm during 2016.” The customer sought $1,500,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

November 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Arthur Brown, Iris Israel and Julie Jones allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. March 2012 – September 2015.” The customer is seeking $1,200,000 in damages in this pending complaint. 

September 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. Time period – 2009-2016.” The customer is seeking $3,800,000 in damages in this pending complaint.

September 2021. “Former FA’s John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. Time period – 2009-2016.” The customer is seeking $1,800,000 in damages. 

September 2021. “Former FAS, John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney, allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. From 2/1/2014 – 6/30/2016.” The customer sought $1,400,000 in damages and the complaint was settled for $36,745,076.26.

August 2021. “Former FAS, John Woods, James Woods and Michael Mooney, allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. From 2/1/2014 – 6/30/2016.” The customer is seeking $170,000 in damages. 

It is alleged that the following brokers who were registered with Southport Capital who recommended Horizon Private Equity:

  • Michael Mooney
  • John Wood
  • Jim Woods
  • Arthur Brown

Pursuant to FINRA Rules, member firms are responsible for supervising a broker’s activities during the time the broker is registered with the firm. Therefore, Southport Capital may be liable for investment or other losses suffered by Woods’ customers.

Are you a victim? Contact a Lawyer for the Horizon Private Equity Ponzi Scheme

Erez Law represents investors in the United States for claims against brokers and brokerage firms for wrongdoing. If you have experienced investment losses, please call us at 888-840-1571 or complete our contact form for a free consultation. Erez Law is a nationally recognized law firm representing individuals, trusts, corporations and institutions in claims against brokerage firms, banks and insurance companies on a contingency fee basis.