Hedge Fund Co-Founder Arrested Over Alleged $40 Million Fraud

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Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced today the arrest yesterday afternoon of ANDREW FRANZONE, the founder and former general partner of FF Fund I L.P. on charges of securities fraud and wire fraud for his role in a scheme to fraudulently induce more than 100 investors to invest approximately $40 million in his fund by, among other things, lying about the fund’s investment strategy, liquidity, and amount of assets under management.  FRANZONE was arrested yesterday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a criminal complaint (the “Complaint”) and will be presented before a magistrate judge in the Southern District of Florida this afternoon.

            Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Andrew Franzone allegedly promised his clients access to his successful liquid trading strategy and consistent, positive trading returns.  As alleged, those promises were lies.  Franzone lied about his fund’s investments and performance, and he lied in promising clients that they had could readily access their invested capital.  While his investors lost money, Franzone enriched himself.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect investors from these types of deceptive practices.”

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said:  “Mr. Franzone allegedly misled investors to believe his fund was liquid and he could cover their redemption requests, in a scheme to lure them in to investing in his hedge fund. This should be a reminder that greed has no boundaries and does not care about a favorable portfolio. Postal Inspectors remind all investors to thoroughly check offers, and if they sound too good to be true, keep your money in the bank.”

            As alleged in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal Court[1]:

            FRANZONE co-founded Farrell Franzone Investments LLC in 2010.  FRANZONE described Farrell Franzone as an opportunity for investors to invest, through the purchase of limited partnership (“LP”) interests, in a hedge fund purporting to trade preferred securities and options and to maintain a highly liquid portfolio for its investors.  FRANZONE renamed the fund FF Fund I (“FF Fund”) in 2014, and served as its general partner from that time until approximately September 2019. 

            In connection with marketing the FF Fund to investors, FRANZONE touted FF Fund as a “multi-strategy investment program … focus[ed] on three unique asset classes: the preferred stock market, the option market, and the private investment portfolio.”  When discussing FF Fund, FRANZONE assured investors that FF Fund was focused on trading in the preferred securities and options markets, which afforded its investors access to quarterly liquidity, and that FF Fund had a track record of consistent positive trading returns since its inception in August 2010. 

            FRANZONE’s representations about FF Fund’s strategy, liquidity, and performance were largely fabricated.  Instead of engaging primarily in preferred securities and options trading that ensured the FF Fund’s liquidity, FRANZONE instead diverted more than 80% of FF Fund’s capital to high-risk, illiquid private investments, many of which were either worthless or significantly impaired.  FRANZONE also misappropriated FF Fund’s assets to fund his own personal business interests, including the purchase of an airplane hangar, and lied to investors about FF Fund’s performance and assets under management.

            Through these and other fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions, FRANZONE induced over 100 investors to invest more than $40 million in FF Fund.  Despite showing investors positive trading returns as late as 2019, FF Fund was unable to fulfill redemption requests in early 2019 and is currently in the process of being liquidated.

*                *                *

            FRANZONE, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is charged with one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

            Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the USPIS and thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has separately filed a civil action against FRANZONE and FF Fund Management.

            This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Task Force.  Assistant United States Attorney Kiersten A. Fletcher is in charge of the prosecution.

            The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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