A Florida man who renamed himself Henry Ford last year set up Fallcatcher Inc., a Delaware-registered company he said was developing technology to track pharmaceutical drug use related to addiction, which he claimed would save health insurers and governments “billions” by reducing fraud.
But Fallcatcher was itself committing fraud, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged, in a complaint filed in Philadelphia federal court in May.
The SEC says Ford, formerly known as Cleothus Lefty Jackson — previously sentenced to 2½ years in prison for a 2011 fraud conviction in a mortgage case — lied last year to investors about Fallcatcher’s prospects, and took more than $1 million from the company without authorization. Ford’s lawyer, Alan Fellheimer, said he could not comment on the case.
Before the SEC acted, Ford raised nearly $5 million from investors. To find those investors, his company contacted a King of Prussia firm, ABFP Management, owned by Dean Vagnozzi, familiar to Philadelphia AM radio listeners for ads for his own business, A Better Financial Plan. Vagnozzi “had access to a network of investors through his own business, which included investments in life settlement funds,” according to the SEC complaint against Ford.
The SEC has not charged Vagnozzi with wrongdoing. He is referred to only as “the Salesman” in the SEC’s case against Ford. His firm’s role is confirmed in Fallcatcher’s financial filing.
“We are GOING to raise $3 Million; are YOU going to be a part of it?” Vagnozzi’s pitch to investors began, according to the SEC.
Vagnozzi beat that target: Fallcatcher raised nearly $5 million, much of it from investors in Montgomery County, according to the SEC. His finder’s fees totaled $500,000 — more than 10% of the total raised, according to the company’s SEC filing. His firm was the only paid investment finder listed by Ford’s company.
“Mr. Vagnozzi’s company, ABFP Management, was hired by Fallcatcher to introduce prospective investors to Fallcatcher. He acted as a finder for them and was not then and is not now affiliated with Fallcatcher in any way,” his lawyer, John W. Pauciulo of the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC, said in a statement.
Vagnozzi’s occasional role providing “finder services for companies seeking to raise capital” is “completely separate and apart from the investment funds that he forms and manages himself,” Pauciulo added. “Given the pending litigation, we cannot comment further.”
In a separate case, Vagnozzi agreed to pay $490,000 this past spring to settle a Pennsylvania Banking and Securities Commission complaint that he had sold unregistered investments.
SEC officials wouldn’t comment on why its New York office, not the one in Philadelphia, conducted the Fallcatcher investigation and brought the case against Ford.
How did Fallcatcher raise millions? In an email pitch to customers excerpted in the SEC complaint, Vagnozzi described Fallcatcher as “a patient kiosk check-in system for the Addiction Recovery Treatment sector,” with “hardware and software elements” that track “patient behavior, compliance, traffic flows, billing, success and failure.”
He added: “It is expected that Fallcatcher will be bought by a major insurance provider for a substantial price." Also, Fallcatcher “has the support of numerous government officials (i.e. Congressman/Senators) in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky and Ohio." And he added a personal note: "I have known the CEO, Henry Ford, for years and tracked his advancement of this product.”
Vagnozzi offered to give would-be investors more information in person — on June 18, 2018, at a restaurant in Trooper, with dinner provided; on June 20, both at a luncheon at King of Prussia, and a dinner at a Lafayette Hill golf club; and on June 21, in Mount Laurel. The minimum investment was $75,000, “cash or IRA money,” according to the SEC account.
At the Lafayette Hill presentation, CEO Ford pitched Fallcatcher as “a new technology that we spent the last three years building, basically to curtail the opioid issue that has ballooned up into a full-blown crisis.”
Ford showed investors a letter with a big insurance company’s logo expressing interests in setting up a pilot program, and said he’d received nine other offers from “major insurance companies and local government agencies.” Vagnozzi followed up with emails linking potential investors to a videotape of that presentation.
The checks flowed in — 50 investors signed on by the end of September, according to the SEC.
But the insurance company letter Ford showed investors “was a fabrication,” the SEC said in its complaint. Despite Ford’s claims, no “insurer or state health agency had expressed any interest in using Fallcatcher’s purported technology,” the agency concluded.
During the winter, SEC investigators asked Ford how he was spending Fallcatcher funds, and were suspicious when he couldn’t verify making a reported consultant payment, then said the consultant had died.
In January, after paying himself and his wife a total of $270,000, Ford promised not to spend more Fallcatcher money without letting the SEC know. But in April and May, Ford transferred more than $1 million out of company accounts without telling the SEC, the agency alleges.
A week after the last transfer, the SEC sued Ford, alleging fraud and misrepresentation, and won a freeze on Fallcatcher’s accounts. Fallcatcher and Ford have until Friday to respond to the SEC’s fraud complaint.