Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos of Montecito was sentenced Aug. 31 to three years in federal prison for defrauding 130 investors out of more than $3.4 million, federal prosecutors announced.
Argyropoulos was the president and sole shareholder of the financial services firm Prima Ventures from 2010 to 2015. During that time, he told investors he had the opportunity to help them invest in companies like Facebook and Twitter before their initial public offerings, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. He also told investors he could help them invest in companies like Alibaba, Etsy and E-Waste.
He wasn’t qualified to help people invest, though, as neither Argyropoulos or his company were licensed brokers, and neither he or the company had the authority to sell securities. Instead of investing the money, he spent it on things like day trading in stocks unrelated to the promised investments. Argyropoulos also used his investors’ money for personal expenses like gambling, cars, insurance bills, travel and legal expenses that came about after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission started investigating him.
Last year, Argyropoulos pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. He also admitted to intentionally violating a January 2015 court order in a lawsuit brought by the SEC, which came from the Facebook and Twitter scheme. The court order forbade him from selling false investments and acting as an unlicensed broker.
Argyropoulos met some of his victims at church gatherings, where he used his relationships to extend his network of investors, prosecutors said. In addition to the prison time, his sentence includes $3.4 million in restitution to his victims.