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Would-be resort tycoons allegedly just fraudsters with expensive tastes


Who wouldn't like to go on a shopping spree and spend millions for personal purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace?

But in the case of three men who allegedly embarked on such sprees, there was just one little hitch — the money they spent wasn't theirs.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said last week that Matthew E. White, Rodney A. Zehner and Daniel J. Merandi, who are not registered to sell investments, allegedly went on lavish shopping sprees with more than $5 million raised from investors to purportedly develop a resort.

In an emergency asset freeze action filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the SEC charged that the men had fraudulently issued $1 billion of unsecured corporate bonds out of a shell company they own and claimed the money would be used to fund the resort project

But they never came close to raising the funds necessary to start the project, and meantime pocketed the $5.6 million they did raise and used it for the shopping sprees, the SEC said.

The SEC said the whole situation should be a lesson to investors: Check the SEC's investor.gov website to be sure be sure the people who sell investments are in fact registered to do so.