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Marin County Ponzi fraud case triggers federal legal action against San Rafael investment adviser

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil complaint in federal court against a San Rafael financial investment firm for its alleged role in soliciting over 1,200 investors into a $330 million Ponzi scheme.

Dow Rockwell LLC, with its sole principal Richard Dow Rockwell, 62, of Marin County, is accused of defrauding investors who provided funds to Ken Casey and former CEO Lewis Wallach as part of what authorities describe as a Ponzi scheme at their Novato firms, Professional Financial Investors and Professional Investors Securities Fund.

Reached at his San Rafael office at 1101 Fifth Ave. on Tuesday, Rockwell said on advice from legal counsel he has declined to comment on the allegation or whether he remains in business.

“We are trying to settle the matter with the SEC,” he said.

Casey died of a heart attack in May 2020, which prompted a whirlwind sequence of events. Casey’s two firms underwent an audit that produced accounting irregularities, thrust PFI into bankruptcy court, prompted a $436 million property selloff and landed Wallach a fraud conviction last year.

This latest legal wrangling filed March 31 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco dictates, that from 2017 through 2020, Rockwell, through his firm, raised about $8 million for PFI by recommending and selling securities to his clients. According to that court filing, Rockwell’s firm earned about $400,000 in referral fees from PFI for this service but failed to disclose the compensation nor Casey’s 1997 conviction on multiple counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to those clients.

The SEC further alleges that, during the time Dow Rockwell LLC and Rockwell offered and sold PFI securities, neither was registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC or was associated with one.

The complaint charges Rockwell and Dow Rockwell LLC with numerous securities violations. The complaint seeks an order by assigned Judge Vince Chhabria requiring Dow Rockwell to pay civil penalties. A summons was issued on March 31 for Richard Rockwell, requesting a response to the lawsuit by 21 days. No filing has been made public with the court.

Representatives with the SEC have declined to comment on the matter. Phone and email inquiries left with Rockwell’s attorney Edward Zusman and colleague Kevin Eng of Markun Zusman Freniere Compton in San Francisco were unanswered.

According to Smart Asset, Dow Rockwell has been in business for 15 years. Rockwell, wealthminder.com reports, has logged 26 years in the financial industry and has worked for the now defunct Marin Wealth Management once located in Greenbrae. The site adds the firm manages 18 accounts valued at $1.8 million.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com.

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