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SEC halts alleged South Florida alternative investment scheme

Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC's Miami Regional Office
Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday announced fraud charges and an asset freeze against the operators of a South Florida-based investment fund scheme, one of whom has a prior felony conviction and is on parole after nearly 20 years in prison.
The SEC filed an emergency action in federal district court against Castleberry Financial Services Group LLC, president T. Jonathon Turner, formerly known as Jon Barri Brothers, and CEO Norman M. Strell, alleging that in the past year they have defrauded investors out of $3.6 million.

According to the SEC’s complaint unsealed Feb. 25, Castleberry falsely represented to investors it had hundreds of millions of dollars in capital invested in local businesses and a portfolio of hundreds of investment properties. Castleberry claimed to offer high yields while protecting investors’ principal by having it “fully insured and bonded” by CNA Financial Corp. and Chubb Group, when the insurance companies had no relationship with Castleberry and did not authorize it to use their logos in Castleberry’s sales materials.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Turner and Strell misused investor funds to pay personal expenses and transferred other funds to businesses they controlled and to family members. The complaint also alleges that Castleberry falsely stated on its website and in promotional materials that Turner has extensive finance industry experience, a MBA degree, and a law degree, while concealing that Turner has been convicted of multiple fraud, theft, and forgery felonies and was imprisoned from 1998 until 2016.
“We received an investor tip during the partial government shutdown that provided critical evidence. The team then moved quickly to halt the alleged ongoing fraud,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the Miami Regional Office. “We encourage anyone that suspects potential investment fraud to report it to the SEC.”
The Honorable Judge Robin L. Rosenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order and temporary asset freeze against the defendants, and issued an order directing the defendants to provide a sworn accounting.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, is being led by Eric E. Morales and Fernando Torres in the Miami Regional Office and supervised by Jason R. Berkowitz and Glenn S. Gordon. The SEC’s litigation is being led by Alejandro O. Soto and Mr. Morales, under the supervision of Andrew O. Schiff. The SEC appreciates the assistance of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.