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Santa Ana investment firm owner is accused of fraud

August 6, 2010 |  4:54 pm

Federal prosecutors have charged the owner of a Santa Ana investment firm with mail and securities fraud in an alleged Ponzi scheme that bilked more than $6.2 million from two dozen victims, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said Friday.

Richard H. Nickles, 57, of Irvine has been in custody since he was arrested on a criminal complaint July 9 during a meeting with two victims at his Santa Ana office.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in April halted the operations of his three firms -- Innovative Advisory Services Inc., Innovative Advisory Services and Island Trader -- and froze their assets.

The criminal information filed late Thursday afternoon charged Nickles with four counts of mail fraud and two counts of securities fraud. He allegedly placed advertisements in The Times and Orange County Register for investments that were “U.S. Government Guaranteed,” “FDIC Insured,” “Guaranteed” or “Insured.”

Prosecutors say Nickles told potential investors there was $50,000 minimum. He allegedly collected more than $10 million and "used the money to pay off prior investors or trade in securities not authorized by the investors," according to a statement by the U.S. attorney's office.

Nickles is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

--Joe Mozingo