Man defrauds $ 9million, files for bankruptcy, faces SEC charges

By David Pendered

The former CEO of a former Turkish-American chamber of commerce, who resides in Alpharetta, has been accused of defrauding $ 9 million from investors who shared his Turkish origins, had recently arrived from Turkey and spoke little English.

The Federal Bankruptcy Court for Northern Georgia is located in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building and US Courthouse in downtown Atlanta. (File / Photo by David Pendered)

The $ 9 million was not enough to prevent the businessman from seeking federal bankruptcy protection. He claimed debt in the range of $ 10 million to $ 50 million owed to up to 49 creditors, according to his voluntary bankruptcy protection application, filed on October 2, 2019 in U.S. bankruptcy court in Atlanta.

The list of debts starts at $ 4,000, owed to a Citibank credit card, and quickly goes up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for each of a dozen accounts, until it reaches an unsecured debt of 4. $ 046,296 from Wallis State Bank in Houston.

Charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission argue that for three years, from 2016 to 2019, Omer Casurluk (also known as Timur Efe) and the entity he controls, Star Chain Inc., deceived investors recently arrived from Turkey and speaking little English. .

During those three years, Casurluk was listed as CEO of the Turkish-American Southeastern Chamber of Commerce, which is identified as a Roswell-based nonprofit entity until the State dissolves it in 2020.

The SEC statement does not mention Casurluk’s involvement with the Turkish chamber. His involvement with the chamber appears in articles filed with the Georgia Secretary of State.

According to the scheme described by the SEC, Casurluk simply lied to newcomers from Turkey about a method to buy into a restaurant franchise

“The investor-victims in this case believed Casurluk presented them with a legitimate investment opportunity,” Nekia Hackworth Jones, director of the SEC’s Atlanta regional office, said in the statement. “Instead, as alleged in the lawsuit, Casurluk deceived investors into inflating restaurant purchase prices and using investor funds to support his own lifestyle and independent businesses.”

Casurluk and his now-disbanded Star Chain have reportedly offered newcomers the opportunity to invest in fast-casual restaurant franchises. These types of restaurants offer the convenience of fast food, with more comfortable dining areas.

The deal presented to investors offered each of them the opportunity to acquire restaurant franchises by partnering in a 50-50 partnership with Star Chain, according to the SEC statement.

The fraud kicked in immediately, according to the SEC.

The purchase price that Casurluk and Star Chain showed investors was inflated above the actual price to be paid. The deal appeared to have 50-50 shares paid for by investors and Star Chain. In reality, only the money provided by the investors went into the transaction.

Another facet was that the names of investors never appeared on any document. Only Star Chain’s name was listed, according to the SEC statement.

Finally, the SEC argues that Casurluk converted investor money for his own use and to support other businesses he owned, including a construction company and independent quick-service restaurants.

Casurluk had quickly risen through the ranks of the Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce in the Southeastern United States, according to state records on the company.

Starting in 2013, Casurluk appeared as a registered chamber agent. Three years later, in 2016, when appears as CEO. He remained in that post until the Secretary of State dissolved the chamber as a corporation in October 2020, for failing to register and not being in good standing.

Casurluk and Star Chain have both been indicted on multiple counts by the SEC in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The two settled the case by not admitting any wrongdoing and agreeing not to engage in the same companies in the future. In addition, they agreed to conditions yet to be determined regarding the payment of fines and penalties, and the return of the money they defrauded to investors.

Jennifer R. Strohm

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