A man and his company are accused of using $3 million from nearly 150 investors, which he said was meant to promote Christian music concerts and festivals, to pay off personal debts.
Jeffrey E. Wall of Freeport, Maine and his business, The Lighthouse Events LLC, are the center of a complaint by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the Press Herald, federal regulators say Wall and his business used the investors’ funds to pay off debts from previous deals, and Wall made promises that he did not honor.
The SEC is seeking permanent injuctions, civil penalties, and disgorgement plus interest against Wall and Lighthouse, alleging that they violated anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933.
From January 2014 through October 2018, Wall and Lighthouse raised more than $3 million from around 145 investors, the SEC complaint says. Wall reportedly told the potential investors that their money would solely be used to promote concerts throughout New England and the repayment of the investment was guaranteed within the year. In a solicitation email, likely sent out to a mass group, Wall wrote “help us spread the message of Christ plus earn 20 percent on your investment.”
The complaint alleges that Wall, however, used the money to pay off existing debt and he has failed to pay about $1.6 million that he originally collected from the investors. He also did not mention Lighthouse’s current financial situation to investors or share that the company has growing high-interest debt.
One investor complained on the the Better Business Bureau website, noting that they invested over $51,000 and were guaranteed a return of 20 percent back monthly from December 2017 through November 2018. However, they were not repaid with interest as promised.
“Lighthouse Events has failed to keep their commitment, to date, we have received only $35,000, still owed over $25,000,” it said.
Lighthouse responded to the complaint, writing that ticket sales ” have been off this past year” and “we are a Christian ministry and we did not try to deceive anybody.” However, the SEC complaint shows an email that says Wall and his company were obligated to pay investors regardless of the company’s financial issues.
“The loan is secured whether we make money or not on the festival. Investors are the backbone of our ministry,” Wall said in an email cited in the complaint. “Without financial partners, we could not move forward booking artists so please know how much we value our investor team. To date all our investors have been paid back 100% of the money invested.”
Wall, a veteran Christian radio programmer, and his wife, Gail, founded the company in 2008 “after much prayer and seeking.” Currently, their site promotes concerts for Christian artists like rock groups Skillet and Sanctus Real, as well as solo artists John Tibbs and John Waller.