Montecito man sentenced for fraud
MONTECITO — A Montecito man has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for orchestrating a years-long scheme that defrauded investors out of more than $3.4 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.
Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos, 73, was sentenced Aug. 31 by U.S. District Judge George H. Wu, who ordered him to pay more than $3.4 million in restitution to his victims. He previously pleaded guilty in June 2019 to one count of wire fraud, authorities said.
Mr. Argyropoulos issued false promises to investors and used their money to purchase shares of Facebook and Twitter prior to the companies’ initial public offerings.
From October 2010 to October 2015, Mr. Argyropoulos was the president and sole shareholder of Prima Ventures Corp., a Santa Barbara-based financial services firm. He represented to investors that he had access to “amazing” investment opportunities that would provide a high rate of return on any money invested, authorities said.
He told investigators that he and Prima Ventures were licensed brokers, when in actuality neither were licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission or any other regulatory authority to sell securities.
Rather than purchasing stocks, Mr. Argyropoulos diverted the investor funds for other uses, such as day-trading in stocks unrelated to the promised investments, as well as personal expenses such as gambling, cars, insurance bills, travel and legal expenses incurred out of an investigation into his activities by the SEC.
He admitted to violating a January 2015 court order in a lawsuit brought by the SEC, which was based on the fraudulent Facebook and Twitter scheme. The injunction prevented him from selling fraudulent investments and acting as an unlicensed broker, officials said.
In total, he cheated 130 victims out of more than $3.4 million.
The matter was investigated by the FBI, while the SEC provided substantial assistance. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Frauds Section.
— Mitchell White
Prescribed burn planned today
ISLA VISTA — A prescribed burn will take place today at the UCSB Lagoon near Campus Point, according to officials.
The burn will begin late this morning and conclude by 4 p.m. The actual burning of the half-acre of grassland, coastal sage and bluff scrub is expected to last less than one hour, according to the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.
The prescribed burn is part of an ongoing ecological management effort to control non-native grasses and establish native vegetation. The burn will be conducted when meteorological conditions are highly favorable to direct smoke away from populated areas, officials said.
The burn is planned and coordinated by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department with SBCAPCD and other agencies.
Those who smell smoke should take precautions and use common sense to reduce any harmful health effects by limiting outdoor activities. If you are sensitive to smoke, consider temporarily relocating and closing all doors and windows during the burn.
A portable air monitor will be set up in the area to monitor air quality conditions. Data will be available on the APCD’s website, www.ourair.org/todays-air-quality/.
— Mitchell White
Restraining order issued against fitness center
BUELLTON — A temporary restraining order has been issued against All Sport Fitness Center in Buellton, requiring it to cease indoor operations pursuant to state and local public health orders.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley made the announcement Tuesday following an Aug. 31 hearing, when Superior Court Judge Jed Beebe issued the restraining order. All Sport continued operating indoors after state and local government issued orders requiring all gyms and fitness centers in counties severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to cease indoor operations.
Despite warnings from the city of Buellton’s code inspector and the District Attorney’s Office, the gym failed to comply with orders. The Consumer Protection Unit of the District Attorney’s Office previously filed a civil complaint against All Sport, alleging a violation of the state’s Unfair Competition Law.
The restraining order remains valid until Sept. 11, when Judge Beebe will determine whether a preliminary injunction is appropriate to prevent All Sport from violating the public health orders.
“The District Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting public health and safety by enforcing state and local public health orders. Compliance with these orders is essential to combatting COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County,” Ms. Dudley said in a statement.
— Mitchell White
Police to increase bicycle, pedestrian enforcement
LOMPOC — The Lompoc Police Department will take part in a bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement operation throughout the month of September.
The operation is aimed at educating bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians on traffic laws, rules and responsibilities. Officers will look for pedestrians who cross the street illegally or fail to yield to drivers who have the right of way. Bike riders will also be stopped when riding on the wrong side of the road, not complying with stop signs and signals, or other violations, authorities said.
In 2019, the Lompoc Police Department investigated one fatal and six injury collisions involving bicyclists and pedestrians.
“Whether you are on foot, behind the wheel or on a bike, you play a part in roadway safety. Understanding the rules of the road using all modes of transportation helps ensure we all get to our destination safely,” police said.
The enforcement is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
— Mitchell White