Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin has charged a Lowell man with “crowd-funding fraud,” his office said Thursday. According to the complaint, Christopher Melville of Lowell sold unregistered securities through a “crowd-funding social media-facilitated general solicitation for his company,” Tabletop Arena LLC.
Attempts to reach Melville were unsuccessful.
Galvin urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt investor-protection rules for such offerings.
Crowd-funding is a securities regulation exemption in the federal JOBS Act, to allow small start-up companies to raise capital from large numbers of small investors, usually via social media. The idea is investors will sift through offerings for the best ones, aided by group decision-making.
Melville, according to the complaint, offered at least $250,000 in Tabletop securities, with sales to at least 20 investors, and got $153,396 in cash from April 2010 to December 2011. Tabletop’s business was purported to be amateur gaming and gambling products and services.
The securities were solicited from Tabletop customers, many of them inexperienced investors in their 20s, the complaint said. The securities were solicited through Tabletop’s website and such sites as Facebook and Twitter.
The complaint alleges Tabletop and Melville concealed material risks and damaging business information.
The state seeks a cease-and-desist order against Tabletop and Melville and an order that they offer to return money paid for the securities.