SAN DIEGO–A 64 year-old Oceanside businessman Thursday admitted swindling more than 160 people out of investments totaling nearly $2 million.
As part of his plea to securities fraud charges, Greg Ruehle admitted being hired by local medical research firm ICB International, Inc., to identify investors who could fund their research. Instead, Ruehle collected millions of dollars from investors and used the money for his own gambling and other personal expenses. Ruehle disguised and concealed his fraud by issuing the investors fake stock certificates and failing to report the purported “investment” to the company.
In a parallel action, the Securities and Exchange Commission today announced civil charges against Ruehle.
Ruehle targeted investors both locally and from his hometown in Minnesota. In 2015, some of the investors asked for proof that their money was being used at ICBI. In response, Ruehle sent them a letter on what appeared to be company letterhead, and purportedly signed by the company’s CEO. In fact, the letter was a forgery, which was borne out by the fact that Ruehle misspelled the CEO’s name. ICBI remained unaware of these “investors,” and never received a penny of their $1.9 million investments.
San Diego-based ICBI’s mission is to develop technologies to transport therapeutic treatments through the blood-brain barrier to treat neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. According to ICBI’s website, the company develops techniques for early diagnosis, monitoring of disease progression, and increased therapeutic efficacy of drugs for neuro-degenerative diseases and various cancers that currently cannot be reached by drugs.
Ruehle’s plea agreement requires that he forfeit the $1.9 million in proceeds and pay restitution to the victim investors.
In addition to the securities fraud charges, Ruehle pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen firearm. In his plea, Ruehle admitted that he owned three stolen firearms, including two semi-automatic pistols and a revolver. He has agreed to forfeit these weapons and another revolver to federal law enforcement.
“Business professionals who use their knowledge of industries and securities to prey on unsuspecting lay investors undermine the public’s confidence and ability to participate in the markets,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “As this case demonstrates, they also jeopardize innovation and the success of small businesses. This type of egregious securities fraud is simply unacceptable.”
“Mr. Ruehle engaged in a pattern of lies and deceitful acts while violating the trust of family, friends, and associates,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge, Eric Birnbaum. “The FBI is committed to investigating and seeking the prosecution of those who steal money through fraudulent investment schemes.”
“Firearms must be obtained through proper procedures by eligible recipients.” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Eric Harden. “This investigation is a reminder that the illegal use of firearms permeates all spectrums of crime.”
Ruehle’s sentencing is set for May 2 before U.S. District Judge Michael Anello.