'Defrauded on a daily basis': Marietta investment adviser charged in $110M Ponzi scheme

·2 min read

Aug. 26—John J. Woods, a Marietta investment manager, was charged this week by the Securities and Exchange Commission of running "a massive Ponzi scheme for over a decade."

In a complaint filed in federal court last week, investigators alleged Woods raised over $110 million from over 400 investors in 20 states through a fund known as Horizon Private Equity. Failing to earn "any significant profits from legitimate investments," the complaint alleges, stakeholders were paid out with phony returns generated by an ever-growing list of new investors.

Horizon's liquid assets as of the filing were said to be less than $16 million, and the SEC says there is no possibility Woods will be able to repay his investors.

"The longer the scheme continues, the larger the losses will be for those left holding the bag ... The Commission believes that additional victims are being defrauded on a daily basis," the complaint reads.

Arguing immediate court action was required, the SEC petitioned to have Woods' and Horizon's assets frozen, along with those of Livingston Group Asset Management, which operates under the name Southport Capital. Woods is alleged to have worked in concert with advisers at Southport, which manages over $824 million in client assets.

Judge Steven D. Grimberg partially granted that request, appointing a receiver and granting an asset freeze of Horizon, as reported by Law360. The petition to have Southport's assets frozen, however, was denied.

Woods could not be reached for comment by the MDJ, but has been active in the Cobb community, serving in the past as head of the Walton High School Raiders Touchdown Club. He is also a minority owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball team.

According to the Chattanoogan, Jason Freier, the Lookouts' managing owner and CEO, said the team has no relationship with any of the entities named in the complaint.

"My number one priority is protecting the interest of the Lookouts, and John has shared with me personally that he will do whatever is best for the team, including divesting his interest if appropriate," Freier said. "We are taking all steps necessary to ensure the Lookouts remain a treasured part of the greater Chattanooga community."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting