How Antonio Lee Snuck A Fake $3.6 Trillion Acquisition Past The SEC
Antonio Lee, “an American entrepreneur” and “world renowned artist,” can be described as almost anything except humble…”scam artist” fits pretty well. According to his official bio, Lee began his career in the cosmetology field, “as a barber”, but quickly decided he was better suited to raise a $1 trillion “art investment fund.”
Antonio Lee (born Antonio Luis Winters; July 14, 1984) is an American entrepreneur, world renowned artist, and YouTube celebrity specializing in acrylic painting. He is well known for his work in the field of Scientific and Performance Art. Lee is the grandson of renowned African-American artist, Annie Lee. Lee credits inspiration to Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci, Annie Lee, Jean Michel Basquiat and Damien Hirst.
For the early part of Lee’s professional life he worked in the field of real estate and cosmetology, as a barber. However, he was severely injured during a case of police brutality. After much rehabilitation therapy Antonio Lee was able to regain mobility, but he is now limited in his range of motion as well as tolerance for sitting and standing. Lee is the father of three girls Malia Lee, Naima Lee, & Ziya Lee. He married in 2011, however, due to marital hardships, he and his wife divorced in 2013. This injury took a toll on Lee, causing him to suffer from major depressive episodes.
In 2013, Lee founded YNoFace Holdings, a Wisconsin company, the first art investment fund created by an artist, that has offered the first issuer- issued private offering under the Jobs Act.
If fact, for those among our readership who would like more information, here is brief overview of the “YNOFACE Holdings” art fund that “acquires, markets, and holds original art as a capital appreciation investment based off the fundamental metrics”…seems solid.
YNOFACE Holdings Inc. acquires, markets, and holds original art as a capital appreciation investment based off the fundamental metrics. We are the first investment art fund created by an artist, world renowned scientific artist Antonio Lee. In addition we are made up of 17 independent contractors and growing. We will upload and share our 41 city global art tour and performances right here on YouTube for your enjoyment! We will showcase our art and the art of the world from a different perspective! Enjoying and Appreciating All That Exists!
And while all of the above from YNOFACE Holdings would seem odd enough, things took a turn for the truly bizarre recently when Lee decided to post an official 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission announcing the sale of his art fund to Google for $3.6 trillion, making him easily the wealthiest man in the world. Per Bloomberg:
A few hours after the New York market close on Feb. 1, an obscure Chicago artist by the name of Antonio Lee told the world he had become the world’s richest man.
The 32-year-old painter said Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc., had bought his art company in exchange for a chunk of stock that made him wealthier than Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Warren Buffett and Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos — combined.
Of course, none of it was true. Yet, on that day, Lee managed to issue his fabricated report in the most authoritative of places: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Edgar database — the foundation of hundreds of billions of dollars in financial transactions each day.
All of which, of course, simply serves as a reminder that pretty much anyone, including a former barber turned trillionaire art collector from Chicago, can dupe the SEC.
For more than three decades, the SEC has accepted online submissions of regulatory filings — basically, no questions asked. As many as 800,000 forms are filed each year, or about 3,000 per weekday. But, in a little known vulnerability at the heart of American capitalism, the government doesn’t vet them, and rarely even takes down those known to be shams.
“The SEC can’t stop them,” said Lawrence West, a former SEC associate enforcement director. “They can only punish the filer afterward and remove the filing from the system.“
After the fraudulent Avon filing, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and former chairman of the Finance Committee, told the SEC it must review its posting standards.
“This pattern of fraudulent conduct is troubling, especially in light of the relative ease in which a fake posting can be made,” Grassley wrote in a letter to the agency.
In response, Mary Jo White, who then chaired the SEC, said it wouldn’t be feasible to check information. She noted that there were on average 125 first-time filers daily in 2014, and the agency was studying the strengthening of its authentication process.
In fact, as Reuters pointed out last fall, Lee’s February filing with the SEC wasn’t even his first act of securities fraud as it was preceded by another fraudulent filing in which he purported to have acquired a modest $88 billion stake in BAML.
In the latest apparent spoof on a U.S. securities regulator’s online filing system, a Chicago-area artist with a fondness for inspirational quotes claimed to have acquired about $88 billion worth of Bank of America Corp shares on Wednesday.
While the SEC did not respond to a request for comment and Bank of America declined to comment, securities experts said there was no doubt the filing was a hoax.
In it, a company called YNOFACE Holdings Inc purportedly run by Antonio Lee said it had acquired 798.4 million Bank of America shares in an exchange on Aug. 15, and purchased another 4.2 billion common shares and 100 million preferred shares on Sept. 22.
The common shares alone would represent nearly half the bank’s total market cap. Bank of America’s largest shareholder, The Vanguard Group, has roughly 610 million shares, a stake of less than 6 percent.
In an earlier filing, YNOFACE said it had implausibly raised over $1 trillion for an art fund.
So, caveat lector — let the reader beware.