A Massachusetts cannabis investment scheme has resulted in charges for an investment adviser who allegedly swindled more than $8 million from investors.
On April 17, 2019, Massachusetts Sec. of State William F. Galvin announced charges against Frederick V. McDonald, Jr., CEO of US Advisory Group Inc. McDonald is accused of misleading more than 100 investors in a Massachusetts cannabis investment scheme, with one 78-year-old investor losing more than $3 million.
McDonald’s house of cards was built with three main ventures—US Advisory Group, Commonwealth Pain Management Connections LLC, and Kettle Black of MA LLC. Through these vehicles, McDonald used clients’ funds in a failed attempt to gain medical cannabis dispensary licenses in Massachusetts and violated state securities laws in the process.
According to the filing, McDonald acting as an investment advisor made recommendations to a high net worth client directing him to invest in marijuana projects without disclosing McDonald’s controlling interest in the investment vehicle or the fees he would receive in connection with the projects.
He originally met the investor at the World Presidents’ Organization Retreat in 2007 and got him to sign an advisory agreement. He got him to invest $1 million into Prime Wellness of MA. Instead of going after the medical marijuana license, McDonald took $200,000 and invested it in Dixie Highway Partners, a different entity owned by McDonald.
He never got a license for Prime Wellness and started a new investment vehicle called KBMA in which he raised $8 million. Ultimately, the venture never obtained a license and had a falling out with the property owner for the proposed dispensary. The whole deal fell through and the investors lost all their money. The original investor ended up losing $3 million and the other investors lost the $8 million for KBMA.
As documented by the state’s 35-page administrative complaint, “McDonald’s free-wheeling practices included cutting corners at every opportunity and lying to his own business partners and investors to cover his own mistakes.”
The complaint details McDonald’s failure to uphold his fiduciary duty, and how “[he] further failed to educate himself regarding the unique and complex licensing process in Massachusetts, which resulted in the distribution of offering documents that failed to adequately disclose to investors the risks or difficulties the investment could face.”
The Massachusetts Securities Division wants to bar McDonald from practicing as an investment adviser and require him to pay a fine to the state and restitution to investors, among other requested enforcement actions.
While McDonald has been accused of misusing investment funds, making material omissions, and other unethical conduct and practices, a representative from US Advisory Group has denied the state’s allegations.
“We have always acted with the highest level of ethics and in the best interests of our clients,” stated the USAG representative, as reported by the Boston Herald. “News reports do not accurately reflect US Advisory Group’s core, history and legacy of providing exceptional financial planning and advice.”