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By Sarah Storkin
Observer Staff Writer 

Over $13 Million Allegedly Lost in Santa Monica Based Ponzi Scheme by Now Dead Principal

Investors in Ten Minute Title Loans and QuickPayLA Dot Com Sue Company alleging a Ponzi scheme

 

November 11, 2018

From the website Ten Minute Title Loan.com

Before Chris Trigg died of brain cancer on July 31, 2018, he and his partners ran an automobile title loan company on Santa Monica Blvd and 16th Street, and Santa Monica Check Cashing on Pico Blvd.

In ongoing litigation, some investors in the title loan company allege that Trigg and others took money from investors far beyond what was justified by the company loan portfolio, using new investor money to pay dividends to older investors. If true, such conduct would constitute an illegal Ponzi Scheme, such as the one run by Bernie Madoff until 2008. Potential losses are said to exceed $13 million.

Attorney Greg Gershuni represents Trigg's widow, Shelly Trigg. On August 31, Gershuni wrote in a letter to investors that "it is unthinkable to Shelly that her husband, Chris, was engaged in any sort of wrongful conduct. But the possibility of it haunts her."

Gershuni wrote investors on September 13, informing them that $21 million had been raised from investors for three entities. The three were controlled by Trigg and his partner, an Orange County man named Raffi King.

Gershuni says that about $8 million was paid out to investors. This would mean that about $13 million of investor money was lost, given that the loan portfolio left is worth less than $1 million.

King blamed Trigg for raising money beyond what would have been justified by the actual portfolio of Ten Minute Title Loans and a related entity, QuickPayLA Dot Com. Gershuni noted that King denies any knowledge of Trigg's conduct, even though he is clearly identified as Trigg's partner in offerings to "accredited investors."

A Court Appointed receiver named Carl Petta is now running Ten Minute Title Loan, which still has a website and still answers the telephone. An employee named Mimi picked up our recent phone call to Ten Minute Title Loan. She said that they were no longer making title loans, and only collecting on the previous ones.

We spoke to two investors who asked not to be identified by name.

One of them, Joe, says that Chris had raised $21 million through private placement. Investors were promised 1.5% or more a month, and they were paid, at first. But the problem was the portfolio includes no more than $2 million worth of vehicles.

In one case, a Ford F-450 pick up truck secured a loan, with interest, exceeding $200,000. "He would get loans for far more than the value of the vehicle, then give checks to his friends or relatives to cash."

Kevin says that he was lured by interest rates of up to 2.5% a month. "Other such companies allow you to invest in a portfolio of title loans, which lowers the risk," he said, noting that "The car title loan business can typically charge rates up to 102% APR, so they can gross, on paper about 8% per month,…then subtract for expenses and bad debt, etc., they may net around 4% to 6% plus or minus, so they could afford to pay investors up to 2.5% per month and still have a profit for themselves."

Joe says that Trigg and his wife, Shelly, lived in a 6000 square foot home in Calabasas, on a 30,000 square foot lot. "The guy owned a check cashing place on Pico and a title loan company on Santa Monica and 16th. That doesn't support such an extravagant lifestyle," he said.

Kevin compares Trigg and his partner, Raffi King, to Bernie Madoff. He is 57 and says he has a 72 year old Sister who gave Trigg $1,000,000 of her retirement money, leaving her at 72 unsure of how to fund her retirement.

The obvious question: is Trigg really dead, or living on some tropical island somewhere?

Joe said he is 90% sure Trigg is dead. "I spoke to the coroner; I got a copy of his (Trigg's) death certificate. I even spoke to the guy who cremated his remains," said Joe. "But the timing of his death, just when the SEC and FBI were looking into this mess, is awfully convenient."

The Superior Court case number referenced above is EC069178

 

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