Enticed by the promise of quick profits, investors in and around the small South Texas town of Alice sunk at least $5 million into Michael Anthony Collins’ stock-trading operation only to see their money stolen outright or used to fund a Ponzi scheme.
Collins pleaded guilty to charges of securities fraud, theft, and money laundering and was sentenced to 15 years on each count on Aug. 11 in Jim Wells County State District Court. The sentences will run concurrently.
Collins was also ordered to pay restitution of $3 million.
From late 2012 to mid-2015, Collins sold “investment plans” through Collins Financial Group, which was located in a strip-mall storefront a half-mile from the Jim Wells County courthouse.
Collins told investors their money would be used to trade stocks, with profits – or bonuses, as Collins put it – generated any time between one week and a few months.
Individual victims invested between $2,000 and $700,000, with some sending money to Collins Financial on multiple dates.
Collins paid bonuses to some investors, but the money came from later investors in the fraudulent trading operation. Most of the money Collins raised was used to pay early investors to further his Ponzi scheme.
Collins failed to disclose to prospective investors two relevant facts about his background.
First, he told investors he was licensed to sell securities in Texas even though his registration had expired. Second, he didn’t tell investors that the IRS filed a tax lien of $74,204 against him and another individual in 2013.
Collins was prosecuted by the Jim Wells County District Attorney’s Office and an attorney in the Enforcement Division of the Texas State Securities Board.