The Sarasota couple accused of bilking investors in a $14 million Ponzi scheme appeared in a Tampa federal court June 25.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is suing John and Marian Morgan, two out-of-state co-defendants and the companies owned by all three parties for their part in an alleged Ponzi scheme. SEC lawyers asked Judge Richard Lazzara to freeze the couple’s assets until their trial, which has not been scheduled yet.
The judge complied with that request, but not before questioning John Morgan about why there was no attorney present representing the Morgans. They are permitted to represent themselves, but they are required by law to have an attorney represent their company, Morgan European Holdings, also known as MoneyTalks.
“I assume you and your wife have some interest in the company,” Lazzara said.
“We are the managers,” Morgan said.
“Did you create them?” Lazzara asked.
“Our lawyer did,” Morgan said.
“Are you the sole stockholders?” Lazzara asked.
“We are,” Morgan said.
“Who’s the president?” Lazzara asked.
“I am,” replied Morgan.
“Who’s the treasurer?” Lazzara asked.
“Marian is,” Morgan said.
“You can’t come here and represent your company,” said Lazzara.
Morgan then told the judge that he was trying to hire a lawyer, William Nortman, of Fort Lauderdale.
“I apologize to the court for coming without legal counsel,” Morgan said. “(Nortman) has asked for significant retainer.”
Morgan told Lazzara he needed another week or two to hire Nortman, who lists white-collar crime as one of his specialties.
The judge said that timeframe was not a problem.
There were five people in the back of the courtroom watching the proceedings. Lazzara asked if any of them were victims of the alleged crime. One man, Richard McKinley, said he was, and that he was there just as an observer.
As the Morgans walked out of the courtoom at the end of the hearing, McKinely glared at them as they passed by. The Morgans did not appear to make eye contact with him.
McKinley did not want to disclose how much money he had invested with the Morgans.
SEC attorney Polly Atkinson said the asset freeze only pertained to any funds collected from investors. She said SEC investigators have located money the Morgans had in offshore accounts and are confident they’ll find more.
The Morgans allegedly used investors’ money to make Ponzi payments to other investors and to pay their mortgages. The couple owns a $3 million home in Coral Cove, a $1.2 million vacant lot adjacent to that home and a $1.5 million home in San Remo.
Outside the courtroom, the Morgans declined to comment on the case.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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