Longtime Montecito resident Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos, was arrested February 7 in Montecito in accordance with a federal grand jury indictment accusing him of operating two fraudulent investment schemes and violating a court order that prohibited him from selling securities. Argyropoulos, 71, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment that afternoon in United States District Court. He was released on a $300,000 bond with a trial set for on March 20.
The 21-count indictment, which comes amid an ongoing FBI investigation, alleges that Argyropoulos operated two schemes out of his two Santa Barbara investment services firms, Prima Capital and Prima Ventures, where he solicited investments in companies including Facebook and Twitter, in addition to a fictitious estate settlement.
In one of the alleged schemes, he promised to use investor funds to purchase securities for pre-IPO shares of Facebook and Twitter. He then used the funds for day-trading with unrelated stocks and personal expenses such as his mortgage, car payments, and casino debts. Argyropoulos has been charged with six counts of fraud for that scheme. According to a Santa Barbara Independent article from 2015, he also used some of the funds as hush money for clients who complained when their shares never materialized. According to the indictment, he solicited $4,947,360 from victimized investors between October 2010 and October 2015.
In a different illegitimate venture, Argyropoulos faces seven fraud charges for reportedly marketing shares in an investment known as the “Laurence Miles Giant Estate Settlement,” also called the “Laurence Miles Trust.” According to the indictment, Argyropoulos told investors falsely that the beneficiary of the trust was an ill woman heir to an estate worth more than $1 billion who needed to borrow money to cover her large medical expenses while access to her trust was tied up in legal proceedings. Argyropoulos reportedly told victims that once the proceedings were finished, the assets would become available for transfer, at which point, investors would receive a return of up to 1,000 percent. The indictment states investors lost more than $760,000.
Argyropoulos is facing eight criminal contempt charges in court, which accuse him of violating an injunction to which he had consented. That was the outcome of a suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the Facebook and Twitter scheme, which prohibited him from acting as an unlicensed broker and selling fraudulent investments.
If convicted, Argyropoulos could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count of the 13 fraud charges. There is no statutory maximum sentence for the eight criminal contempt charges.