The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two former brokers in Arizona with stealing investments in a project to develop tankless water heaters.
The SEC alleges that Jeffrey Stebbins of Mesa, Ariz., and Corbin Jones of Gilbert, Ariz., diverted at least $1.8 million of investor money for their personal use and fraudulently obtained more than $6 million in stock for themselves to the detriment of investors. Typically used in residences, tankless water heaters are generally designed to instantly heat water as it passes through pipes rather than in large containers like traditional water heaters. Stebbins and Jones personally told investors that all of the money they raised would be used to develop the tankless water heater venture. Instead, they diverted nearly 30 percent of the funds they raised to pay unrelated business expenses and support their lavish lifestyles, including the lease of luxury automobiles.
“Stebbins and Jones secretly misappropriated investor funds for their personal use and defrauded investors at every turn,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Stebbins and Jones solicited investors for the tankless water heater project during a three-year period by offering securities through a variety of companies. Besides misappropriating $1.8 million for themselves, they fraudulently duped certain shareholders in one of the companies, Noble Systems, to swap their private shares for publicly-traded shares in another company, Noble Innovations. This turned out to be nothing more than a fraudulently orchestrated stock swap enabling Stebbins and Jones to reap more than $6 million worth of Noble Innovations stock at the expense of these shareholders who were left with almost nothing. Stebbins and Jones also deprived early investors in the water heater venture of more than $1 million of Noble Innovations stock that rightfully belonged to them. Throughout much of this time, Stebbins and Jones traded Noble Innovations stock by using 28 accounts in 18 different names with 14 separate brokers to ultimately profit by more than $557,000. Stebbins and Jones never reported their significant holdings in Noble Innovations as they were required to do under the securities laws.
The SEC’s complaint charges Stebbins and Jones with violating the antifraud, broker-dealer registration, and beneficial ownership reporting provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and prejudgment interest, financial penalties, injunctions, and penny stock bars.
The SEC separately issued an order to revoke the registration of Noble Innovations securities due to the company’s failure to make required periodic filings.