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Former Southport Capital Founder and Former Oppenheimer & Co. Financial Advisor Charged in $100 Million Horizon Private Equity Ponzi Scheme

By: Reif Law Group

Marietta, Georgia resident John Justin Woods (CRD#: 1949233) was the president and majority owner of investment advisory firm Southport Capital until being terminated in August 2021 as a result of an investigation into a $100 million Ponzi scheme, “Horizon Private Equity.” 

From 2003 to 2016, Woods was a registered representative with Oppenheimer & Co, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Ponzi scheme allegedly began. Over 400 investors in 20 states may have been victims of the ongoing scheme. Our firm is interested in hearing from former clients of John Woods, Southport Capital, and Oppenheimer. 

Background Information

In August 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)  commenced an investigation of John Woods regarding the alleged Ponzi scheme. On August 20, 2021, the SEC filed an emergency action to stop the scheme allegedly perpetrated by Woods and the two entities he controls: registered investment adviser Livingston Group Asset Management Company, d/b/a Southport Capital (Southport), and investment fund Horizon Private Equity, III LLC (Horizon). 

According to the complaint, Woods and other defendants allegedly misled investors by telling them Horizon would earn a 6 to 7 percent return on investments in government bonds, stocks, and small real estate projects. Instead, their money paid returns to earlier investors. Horizon has not earned profits from legitimate investments. The SEC’s complaint charges Woods and his companies with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, civil penalties, an asset freeze, and the appointment of a receiver.

On Aug. 24, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted a temporary restraining order and asset freeze with respect to Woods and Horizon and ordered expedited discovery concerning Southport, among other relief.

On June 10, 2022, the SEC filed a civil action against other participants in the Horizon Private Equity Ponzi scheme, including Michael Mooney, Britt Wright, and Penny Flippin, all former investment advisors of Southport Capital. 

In September 2022, a FINRA arbitration panel ordered Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. to pay $36.7 million to 10 claimants for its involvement in the Horizon Private Equity II Ponzi Scheme, including $ 5.7 million in compensatory damages, $11.4 million in punitive damages, $14.1 million in RICO damages, $98,655.96 in costs, and $5.3 million in lawyers fees. The claimants asserted violations of FINRA Rules, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of the Georgia RICO statute,  and breach of contract. 

Reif Law Group is investigating claims of investment losses by current and former customers of John Woods, his brother James Woods, Michael Mooney, Southport Capital, and Woods’ former investment advisory firm, Oppenheimer & Co., Inc., for its role in enabling the scheme.

John Woods Customer Complaints

John Woods has been the subject of 32 customer complaints between 2008 and 2022:

  • In November 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2003 to 2016, resulting in losses of $300,000. The complaint is pending.
  • In September 2022, claimants charged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel with conducting a Ponzi scheme from 2003 to 2016. The claimant is seeking $900,000 in damages. 
  • In September 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2003 to 2016, resulting in losses of $100,000. The complaint is pending. 
  • In August 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 to 021. The claimant is seeking $104,100 in damages. 
  • In July 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2003-2016, resulting in losses of $2,000,000. The complaint is pending.  
  • In April 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2013 to 2021. The customer is seeking $1,372,000 in damages. 
  • In April 2022, claimants alleged John Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2008-2021, resulting in losses of $170,000. The complaint is pending.
  • In April 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2012-2021. The customer is seeking $1,000,000 in damages.
  • In April 2022, claimants alleged John Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2008-2021, resulting in losses of $170,000. The complaint is pending.
  • In April 2022, claimants alleged that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2014-2021, resulting in losses of  $288,000. The complaint is pending.
  • In March 2022, claimants alleged that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2012-2021. The customer is seeking $3,000,000 in damages. 
  • In March 2022, claimants alleged John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2013-2020. The customer is seeking $394,200 in damages. 
  • In March 2022, claimants alleged that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme, 2012-2021, resulting in losses of $4,000,000. The complaint is pending.
  • In March 2022, claimants alleged that John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2014-2016. The customer is seeking $1,200,000 in damages.
  • In February 2022, claimants alleged that John J. Woods, Michael Mooney, and James Wallace Woods conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2008 to 2021, resulting in losses of $300,000.” The complaint is pending. 
  • In January 2022, claimants alleged that former Oppenhenheimer employees John Woods and Michael Mooney conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2008 to 2016. The customer sought $942,126 in damages in this pending complaint. 
  • In January 2022, former Oppenheimer employees John Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2005-2016. The customer is seeking $1,000,000 in damages. 
  • In December 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods,  and Michael Mooney, with the involvement of Iris Israel and Julie Jones, allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2005 to 2016, resulting in losses of $5,000,000. The complaint is pending. 
  • In December 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 to 2016 and post-Oppenheimer until 2021. The customer sought $470,000 in damages in this pending complaint.  
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016, resulting in losses of $2,500,000 in damages. The complaint is pending.
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Arthur Brown, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer alleges losses of $510,000 from 2013 to 2020. The complaint is pending.
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer alleges losses of $100,000 from 2012 to 2016. The complaint is pending. 
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2008 to 2016. The customer sought $700,000 in damages in this pending complaint.
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2008 to 2016, resulting in losses of $3,300,000. The complaint is pending. 
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, and Iris Israel allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer alleges losses of $3,300,000 from March 2012 to September 2015 in this pending complaint. 
  • In November 2021, the client’s attorney alleged misconduct, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty. The claim did not specify a time period, but subject accounts opened in 2012; Woods left Oppenheimer in 2016. The customer is seeking $1,500,000 in damages. 
  • In November 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, Michael Mooney, Arthur Brown, Iris Israel, and Julie Jones allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer claims losses of $1,200,000 from March 2012 to September 2015. The complaint is pending. 
  • In September 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer claims losses of $3,800,000 from 2009 to 2016. The complaint is pending. 
  • In September 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, and Michael Mooney allegedly conducted a Ponzi Scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer alleges losses of $1,800,000 from 2009-2016. The complaint is pending. 
  • In August 2021, former Oppenheimer financial advisors John Woods, James Woods, and Michael Mooney, allegedly conducted a Ponzi scheme from 2007 until December 2016. The customer alleges losses of $170,000 from February 2014 to June 2016. The complaint is pending. 

Recovering Your Losses From the Horizon Private Equity Ponzi Scheme

Reif Law Group represents clients around the country in claims against stockbrokers, investment advisors, and brokerage firms. If you were a client of John Woods, his cohorts, or Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. and have suffered investment losses from the Horizon Private Equity Ponzi scheme, we have the skills and experience to protect your rights. But you must act quickly. Contact us today to learn about your legal options.

Brandon S. Reif is the managing partner at Reif Law Group, P.C. and a distinguished trial attorney with a track record of delivering successful trial verdicts and arbitration awards. Mr. Reif is Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ peer-rated, AV Preeminent™ – Judicial Edition-rated, and a Client Champion Platinum™ client-rated attorney. He has been voted one of Los Angeles Magazine’s “Top Attorneys in Southern California” from 2011 to 2021 and Southern California’s Super Lawyer® from 2011 to 2021 (elevated from Rising Stars® in 2015). Mr. Reif represents the securities and financial services industries in all types of lawsuits and arbitrations, including customer, vendor, sponsor, and insurer disputes. If you have a question about this article you can contact Mr. Reif by visiting his biography page here.