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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 8, 2007

Seminars swindling Hawaii seniors

By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Honolulu financial adviser who allegedly made about $2 million in commissions by defrauding senior citizens is the subject of joint efforts by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the state Securities Commissioner's office to stop his activities.

The SEC yesterday said it filed for an injunction against Mark K. Teruya, 35, and his Senior Resources of Hawaii Inc., a firm that does business as USA Wealth Resources and specializes in financial planning for senior citizens.

Hawaii Securities Commissioner Tung Chan also issued a preliminary order alleging securities fraud. It ordered Teruya and USA Wealth Resources to cease and desist with their activities. Others named in the action include Ronda Teruya, Rodelia Ferrer and Craig Teruya.

Chan also scheduled a hearing seeking revocation of Teruya's state registration as an investment adviser representative.

"Swindling seniors destroys families and communities," Chan said. "We have no tolerance for perpetrators of investment fraud, especially against seniors, and we will continue to work with the SEC to use all available state and federal tools to bring perpetrators to justice."

Teruya and the others did not respond immediately to three messages left at Senior Resources' Queen Street office requesting comment.

The state worked on the investigation with the SEC, which has been examining financial services firms that offer "free lunch" investment seminars that target senior citizens. The SEC complaint charges the defendants with violating anti-fraud laws and asks for restitution and civil penalties.

Teruya's USA Wealth Resources offered breakfasts and dinner seminars that were advertised in newspapers, including The Advertiser. An event in March at the Ilima Room of the Ala Moana Hotel offered free tickets for people who had at least $250,000 in investment assets and promised U.S. Mint Proof Quarters Collectors sets to the first 20 households signing up.

The SEC claims Teruya misled clients into signing blank forms on multiple occasions without disclosing their purpose and use.

The suit alleges Teruya later used the forms to sell senior's stocks and bonds without their knowledge and used the proceeds to purchase equity-indexed annuities for which he received commissions totaling about $2 million.

The SEC said the local investigation was part of a yearlong national examination into investment firms that offer free meals to senior citizens who attend their seminars. The SEC said results of the project will be released during its Senior Summit on Monday.

Reach Greg Wiles at gwiles@honoluluadvertiser.com.