(Bloomberg) -- The US Securities and Exchange Commission accused a strip mall owner of a botched attempt to profit by manipulating the price of WeWork Inc. shares and using client funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle.
The real estate investor, Jonathan Larmore, was behind an entity called Cole Capital that made an offer to buy WeWork stock at a large premium earlier this month, in the days before the coworking company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move briefly sent the shares soaring, according to the SEC complaint filed in Arizona.
Larmore had previously acquired call option contracts on WeWork stock, meaning he stood to make “hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars,” according to the SEC, but he allegedly mistimed the press release.
“His options expired just over an hour before the WeWork stock price spiked as a result of his manipulative conduct,” the complaint said.
Larmore didn’t immediately comment. A representative for WeWork declined to comment.
In the same complaint, the SEC is alleging that, by at least 2017, the real estate investor started misappropriating client funds from his firm, Arciterra Cos. Beginning in 2006, Larmore raised roughly $45 million from more than 1,000 investors to bet on real estate, according to the complaint, issuing secured notes that promised more than 8% in annual interest.
Larmore’s story took a bizarre turn in April of this year, the SEC said, with Larmore firing his employees in Phoenix and shuttering its office. Around that time, he emailed a large group of people with an offer to sell his personal property, including cars, boats and jewelry. He also wanted to sell real estate assets held in Arciterra’s funds. At some point in time, the business’s holdings were worth about $570 million, according to recent testimony from a company executive in a separate case.
Larmore told acquaintances he wanted “to shed the baggage of my past and start fresh,” according to the complaint.
The SEC complaint isn’t the only lawsuit Larmore is facing. In May, a group of investors filed suit against Larmore in Illinois, alleging that he used client funds to pay for a Gulfstream G400, a yacht and a lavish party for his dog, Spike. The plaintiffs withdrew that lawsuit in October, although an attorney for the plaintiffs has said that he planned to refile in Arizona.
Earlier this month, Larmore called those allegations baseless.
--With assistance from Austin Weinstein.
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