A financial adviser who appeared frequently on CNBC is wanted for fraud, according to a complaint announced by federal prosecutors Wednesday.
James Arthur McDonald Jr., 50, ran two Los Angeles-based investment firms called Hercules Investments and Index Strategy Advisors. Federal prosecutors charged McDonald with one count of securities fraud for allegedly lying to investors.
McDonald, who faces up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted, “is believed to be in hiding,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a news release.
In late 2020, Hercules clients lost between $30 million and $40 million after McDonald took a “risky short position” that hinged on the stock market tanking following the presidential election, prosecutors allege.
“McDonald projected that the COVID-19 pandemic and the election would result in major selloffs that would cause the stock market to drop,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in its release.
But the economic decline he anticipated didn’t happen, and his clients began to complain to Hercules employees about the losses, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
McDonald then tried to raise funds for Hercules, but misrepresented how the funds would be used and he did not disclose the firm’s massive losses to investors, the U.S. Attorney’s office alleges.
“The losses to Hercules clients and the potential for litigation related to those losses jeopardized the success of that fund because any litigation would have had to be publicly disclosed,” federal prosecutors said.
McDonald raised $675,000 from investors in March 2021. Federal prosecutors allege he then misused those funds, spending $174,610 at a Porsche dealership, $6,800 on a website selling designer menswear and $109,512 to the landlord of a home he was renting in the Los Angeles area.
McDonald failed to appear for a Nov. 2021 subpoena from the Securities and Exchange commission, federal prosecutors said. Investigators believe McDonald terminated his phone number and email and told someone he planned to “vanish.”
McDonald is also accused of telling clients that Index Strategy Advisors was a registered advisement firm though it had lost that status in 2019.
At Index Strategy Advisors, prosecutors allege, McDonald sent clients fake account statements, including to one client who said he never got his full investment of over $350,000 back when he needed to make a down payment on a home.
McDonald was still at large Thursday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY’s request for comment to an email listed on Hercules Investments’ Facebook page was not returned immediately Thursday.
The websites for Hercules Investments and Index Strategy Advisors appeared to have been removed Thursday.
An inquiry to CNBC was also not immediately returned Thursday.