Anastasios “Tommy” Belesis, the founder of John Thomas Financial Inc., agreed to be banned from the securities industry in a settlement with U.S. regulators who had accused him of defrauding investors in two hedge funds.
Belesis, 38, “exercised undisclosed influence” on the funds’ adviser to steer fees to his brokerage, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in an administrative order. The agency barred Belesis from working with brokers or penny-stock offerings and ordered him and John Thomas to pay $500,000 each. InvestmentNews reported on the settlement yesterday.
John Thomas, which still faces allegations of penny-stock fraud by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, reaped more than $100 million in commissions over its six-year history before closing in July. Trainees at the New York-based firm generally weren’t given chairs and earned as little as $300 a week to pitch stocks with memorized scripts, Bloomberg News reported in February.
Belesis, who was John Thomas’s chief executive officer, didn’t admit or deny the claims and the SEC didn’t find that he engaged in fraud, said Ira Sorkin, his lawyer at Lowenstein Sandler LLP. Belesis can apply for the securities industry ban to be lifted after a year, the SEC said.
Belesis repeatedly pushed the funds’ adviser, Houston radio host George Jarkesy, for more fees in a “profane and belligerent manner” and tried to make the funds invest in companies in which John Thomas held interests, the SEC said in a March complaint. Jarkesy wasn’t named in the settlement.