TAMPA — Federal authorities have charged Hillsborough County resident Steven Brickner with investment fraud, alleging he duped more than 60 retail investors out of some $5.5 million through purported investments in marijuana-related companies Brickner controlled.
Brickner, of Lithia, agreed to a judgment that requires him to pay back the victims of his alleged fraud, with prejudgment interest and penalties in amounts to be determined by the court, according to a statement from the Securities and Exchange commission. The settlement, in which Brickner isn’t required to admit or deny the allegations of the SEC's complaint, is subject to court approval, the release adds.
Authorities contend that from 2015 to 2019, Brickner falsely represented to investors he would use their money to purchase a Colorado-licensed marijuana dispensary network. He allegedly added that he “would conduct an IPO or merge with an over-the-counter public company, generating significant profits for investors,” the SEC release states.
Brickner, instead, according to the SEC's complaint, “misappropriated about $3 million of investor money to fund his lavish lifestyle and for personal expenses, including $1.2 million to purchase classic and luxury cars and $335,000 in expenses at an adult entertainment club.”
The SEC also alleges Brickner misrepresented to investors his experience as a successful entrepreneur while failing to disclose he had filed for bankruptcy in 2016, and made baseless claims to investors about a purportedly "imminent" merger.