The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed an emergency action to stop a Ponzi scheme.

The regulator said that it was granted a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against John Woods from Marietta, Georgia and two entities he controls: investment advisory firm Livingston Group Asset Management (trading as Southport Capital) and investment fund Horizon Private Equity.

According to the complaint, Woods and the two companies raised $110m (£81m, €94m) from more than 400 investors across 20 states by offering and selling membership units in Horizon.

Investors, some of whom were elderly retirees, were told that the Horizon investments were safe, that they would pay a fixed rate of return, and that they could get their principal back without penalty after a short period.

But the SEC alleges that the statements were “false and misleading” because Horizon did not earn any “significant profits from…

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