The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused a former Oklahoma investment adviser and wedding singer of raising at least $4.7 million through various illegal schemes with the help of a Bartlesville businesswoman. The pair then used investors' money on gambling and other personal expenses, as well as to pay off earlier investors, according to a court filing.
The SEC filed a civil suit against Larry J. Dearman Sr., 40, of Tulsa, and his friend and business associate Marya Gray, 50, of Bartlesville. The Bartlesville-based wireless service provider Bartnet Wireless and northwest Oklahoma convenience store chain Quench Bud's also were named as defendants in the lawsuit, as well as shell company The Property Shoppe Inc.
Attempts to reach Deaman and Gray on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The lawsuit claims Dearman fraudulently obtained millions of dollars from more than 30 clients. Dearman promised his clients he would invest their money into various businesses owned or controlled by Gray, the lawsuit says. Instead, Dearman and Gray used investors' money to gamble and for personal expenses as well as to pay off other investors in a Ponzi-type scheme, the SEC claims.
Dearman stole an additional $700,000 from some of his clients “through various ruses,” the SEC said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa.
“Dearman and Gray were able to lure these clients in part because many of them had known him and his family since childhood, thought of him as an active member of their church and knew him as a popular local wedding singer,” the SEC claims.
Over several years, Dearman solicited $1.7 million from 17 investors in Bartnet, which was controlled by Gray, the lawsuit says. Dearman allegedly told investors that the wireless company needed money to buy transmission towers and other equipment. In reality, Bartnet was losing money and Dearman knew the firm would not be able to repay the promissory notes given to investors, the SEC claims.
Gray gambled away more than $1.1 million over the course of the scheme, which lasted from 2008 to 2012, the SEC claims in its lawsuit.
Dearman and Gray raised another $2 million from investors for The Property Shoppe, another Gray-controlled company, the lawsuit says. Although Dearman and Gray sold stock to investors in the company, The Property Shoppe conducted little if any real business, the lawsuit claims.
Dearman also raised about $320,000 from at least two investors for the Gray-controlled company Quench Buds, which operates four convenience stores in the Bartlesville area, according to the lawsuit.
Much of the money went directly to Dearman and Gray, as well as to partially repay an investor in Bartnet, the SEC claims.
Dearman was a partner in the Bartlesville financial advisory firm The Focus Group, but a receptionist who answered the phone on Wednesday said that Dearman was no longer with the company.
Cheree King, an office manager for Bartnet, said the company was under new ownership.
The owner did not respond to a request for comment.
Dearman and Gray were able to lure these clients in part because many of them had known him and his family since childhood, thought of him as an active member of their church and knew him as a popular local wedding singer.”
Securities Exchange Commission,