Investors allege fraud in lawsuits against Bartlesville investment firm, advisor

Suits allege fraud by Bville investment firm

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Three Washington County residents and one out of Osage County last month filed lawsuits against a Bartlesville investment firm and its former associate, accusing them of fraud.

In the two lawsuits filed in Washington County District Court nearly a week apart, the four plaintiffs claim The Focus Group Advisors and their former senior investment advisor Larry Dearman committed "fraud, misrepresentation, deceit, malpractice, breach of contract, unsuitable trading" and other misdeeds with their money, as worded in one petition.

Attorney Zachary Hyden with the Haskett & Haskett, representing retired Osage County school administrator Jerry Quillin who lost $150,000 and filed the first lawsuit, told 2NEWS the two petitions filed last month are only the beginning of actions to be filed against Focus and Dearman – four more cases expected to be filed by the end of the week.

Estimates are now that Dearman defrauded investors of nearly $2 million, according to Hayden, who said this is one of the saddest cases he has seen. 

"Larry Dearman apparently got strapped for cash and started running a Ponzi scheme of all things," he said, explaining that Dearman allegedly called investors to change their retirement accounts but in reality took their money – their life savings – and put them in unsecured business loans.

Such was the case with retired teacher Lawana Brewer who as per Dearman's instructions in October 2011 and April 2012 withdrew from her Focus accounts a total of $150,000 which she then gave to Dearman to invest in a property developer, Quench Buds and Bartnet.

He promised her her money back, plus $4,000 in interest. However, Dearman only repaid $1,000, according to the suit.

Similar is alleged by Quillin who said in his petition that at Dearman's urging he invested $100,000, and then $50,000 in unsecured loans in Bartnet after being promised the money back with roughly an additional $11,000 in return.

The petition went on to say Dearman "never invested the $50,000" and "upon information and belief … provided all or some of the proceeds from the ill-gotten scheme to his spouse." 

When contacted Monday, a Focus Group Advisor employee referred 2NEWS to the company's lawyer, Gary Kessler in Dallas, Texas.

Kessler told 2NEWS once Focus learned of Dearman's alleged activities, the firm contacted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Additionally, Dearman is no longer employed at Focus.

"Dearman is under investigation and I wouldn't be surprised if they did bring action against him," he said.

In an answer to Quillion's petition filed by Kessler on Tuesday, Focus said Dearman lacked "actual authority" in the activities as described in the lawsuits and furthermore that "the plaintiff was aware, or should have been aware, that the loans at issue were not activities engaged in through the Focus Group."

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