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Charges: Shakopee couple used $18M Ponzi scheme to fund horse racing stable, other businesses

The couple owns Empire Racing Stables, which is one of the leading horse owners at Canterbury Park.

A couple from Shakopee is accused of running a nearly $18 million Ponzi scheme to fund their horse racing stable and their other businesses. 

The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint in federal court last week against Jason Bullard, 57, and Angela Romero-Bullard, 49, the owners of Empire Racing Stables, accusing the couple of raising about $17.6 million from as many as 200 investors between 2007 to August 2021.

The SEC obtained a temporary restraining order and an asset freeze to stop the alleged Ponzi scheme, a news release says

According to the complaint, the Bullards recruited friends and family, many of whom are elderly retirees, to invest in Bullard Enterprises. They said they'd invest their money in "investment funds" to trade foreign currency.

However, the SEC alleges Bullard Enterprises stopped trading foreign money in 2015 and the Bullards used money from new investors to pay "returns" to their existing investors, the complaint says. They would send their investors "falsified" statements that showed their accounts increased in value when in reality their money wasn't invested or they had suffered investment losses.

The complaint says the Bullards used $1.9 million in investor funds to pay other investors in Ponzi-style payments and for their personal uses, including funding their other businesses — the Empire Racing Stables, a limousine service called Nite Train Transportation, and a Snap Fitness gym franchise — as well as make car payments, pay personal credit cards, life insurance premiums and other expenses. 

Canterbury Park confirmed to FOX 9 the Bullards are one of the leading horse owners at the Shakopee racetrack, with purse earnings of more than $360,000.

The charges also say Bullard used a "bulk" of the $434,400 they'd received in June and July 2020 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program to "temporarily fund investor payments until new investor monies were received or to fund the Bullards' horse racing efforts."

"Many of the investor-victims in this case were friends and family of Bullard and Romero-Bullard who trusted their promises about investment strategy and expected returns," Nekia Hackworth Jones, director of the SEC's Atlanta regional office, said in a statement. "... Bullard and Romero-Bullard breached that trust for years. Instead of delivering on their promises, these individuals used false statements and fraudulent documents to convince investors to pour millions of dollars into bank accounts used almost exclusively for Ponzi-style payments and for their personal benefit."

The Bullards are charged with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The SEC is seeking temporary relief, preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, civil penalties and an asset freeze. 

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