The Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges on Wednesday against investment advisor Dionne Van Zyl for allegedly defrauding members of an Atlanta church. The SEC says it seeks injunctions, civil penalties and disgorgement plus interest in return.
Between 2013 and 2019, Van Zyl used his status as an elder and senior leader at the church in Atlanta's suburbs to persuade members to trust him with their finances, according to the SEC. He formed investment advisory relationships with dozens of members who gave him $23.5 million to manage and $3 million in undisclosed fees and commissions.
The $23.5 million was reportedly invested into Van Zyl’s failing startup companies, a related investment fund and high-frequency forex trading, says the SEC. However, clients were not made privy to where their funds would be invested and the associated risks. Van Zyl also failed to inform his fellow congregants-turned-clients of the ways in which he would be compensated, "telling clients only that he could take certain 'advisory' and 'consulting' fees," said the SEC in its complaint.