Dec. 7, 2022 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against venture capital firm Vika Ventures LLC and its CEO and co-founder, George Iakovou, with fraudulently offering and selling more than $6 million of securities to at least 46 individual investors in multiple states including California, Georgia, and New York. The SEC also announced settled charges against Vika Ventures’ other co-founder, Penelope Zbravos, for her role in the scheme.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that, between late 2019 and 2021, Iakovou and Vika Ventures offered to sell investors shares of private companies that might hold an initial public offering. However, as set forth in the SEC’s complaint, Iakovou and Vika Ventures did not own the shares at the time of the solicitations and never acquired them. Rather than purchasing the securities, Iakovou allegedly used investor funds for himself. As CEO of Vika Ventures, Iakovou allegedly used fraudulent documentation and statements to convince investors that Vika Ventures was a successful venture capital firm. According to the SEC’s complaint, Zbravos, Iakovou’s then-girlfriend, encountered but failed to act upon sufficient red flags regarding the company’s operations to make her a negligent participant in the scheme.
“Iakovou and Vika Ventures allegedly operated a straightforward fraud on investors by offering to sell them securities in highly sought-after pre-IPO companies without ever intending to buy any shares on behalf of the investors. Instead, Iakovou allegedly spent millions of dollars on private jets, expensive watches, and lavish travel,” said Carolyn M. Welshhans, Associate Director of the SEC Enforcement Division. “This case underscores our commitment to pursuing those that prey on investors by using fake company profiles, misleading websites, and false promises of lucrative pricing of securities.”
The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, charges Iakovou, Vika Ventures, and Zbravos with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against Iakovou and Zbravos. The complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief and a civil penalty against Vika Ventures.
Without admitting or denying the allegations, Zbravos has agreed to a permanent injunction from future violations and to pay disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty, as determined by the district court. The settlement is subject to the approval of the district court.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia today announced the filing of related criminal charges.
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Mark Astarita is a nationally recognized securities attorney, who represents investors, financial professionals and firms in securities litigation, arbitration and regulatory matters, including SEC and FINRA investigations and enforcement proceedings.
He is a partner in the national securities law firm Sallah Astarita & Cox, LLC, and the founder of The Securities Law Home Page - SECLaw.com, which was one of the first legal topic sites on the Internet. It went online in 1995 and is updated daily with news, commentary and securities law related links.