July 24, 2024

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has urged a woman from Monticello, linked to a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, to respond to the allegations of violating SEC rules. According to an order issued on June 18, the SEC stated it was necessary for public interest to validate the claims against Nicole J. Walker, aged 44, and to decide on suitable corrective action if the charges are proven.


Walker was employed as a telemarketer for Woodbridge Wealth, an unregistered California based financial firm which dealt in illegal securities. The firm conducted a massive Ponzi scheme between 2012 and 2017, amassing at least $1.2 billion from over 8,400 investors nationwide, many of whom were senior citizens using their retirement funds.

Walker joined Woodbridge in 2013 as an in-house salesperson. Despite not being registered to sell securities, she became one of the firm’s top earners, making about $977,000 over four and a half years. She used fraudulent marketing materials to depict the investment securities as low-risk and conservative, and also aided outside agents in selling them.

Robert H. Shapiro, former Woodbridge owner and CEO, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy and tax evasion in 2019. In a separate civil suit the same year, Shapiro and Woodbridge were fined $1 billion for running a Ponzi scheme.

Walker relocated to Monticello in 2020. The SEC accused her and two other high-profile Woodbridge salespersons of unlawfully selling securities worth $444 million in March 2020. Subsequently, Walker agreed to a judgment from Los Angeles federal court barring her from selling securities and allowing the court to determine penalties and the potential return of ill-gotten gains. However, she neither confirmed nor denied the charges.

The new SEC administrative proceedings are based on the outcomes from the previous California lawsuit. In this case, Walker expressed remorse, acknowledging the victims’ suffering in a 2021 video-recorded deposition following her move to Monticello.

“The clients believed in what they were investing in, just like I did. Learning that it wasn’t as presented and knowing that they lost their money is devastating. I regret being a part of it and feel awful for the damage caused,” said Walker.


What role did Nicole J. Walker play in the Ponzi scheme?

Nicole J. Walker was a high-ranking salesperson at Woodbridge Wealth. She sold unregistered securities to customers by misleading them and presenting these securities as low-risk, conservative investments. Walker played a key role in advancing the company’s Ponzi scheme.

How did the authorities respond to the Ponzi scheme conducted by Woodbridge Wealth?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission intervened, prompting legal action against the parties involved. The former owner and CEO of Woodbridge, Robert H. Shapiro, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy and tax evasion. Additionally, the company was ordered to pay $1 billion for running the Ponzi scheme.

What are the implications for Nicole J. Walker following the SEC’s charges?

Walker is barred from selling securities as per an agreement with a Los Angeles federal court judgment. The court is also permitted to identify the penalty amount and decide on the possibility of Walker returning the unethically acquired gains. These measures are the result of Walker’s alleged violation of SEC regulations.