For Immediate Release: February 3, 2022
Office of The Attorney General
– Andrew J. Bruck, Acting Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, Director
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced that an unregistered investment adviser was sentenced to 3 years in state prison for stealing over $471,000 from 24 investors he recruited to invest in an unregulated commodities trading group he founded called Think Big Institute, LLC (“Think Big”).
Scott Nicholson, 54, of North Haledon, N.J., was sentenced Thursday by Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed in Passaic County. Nicholson is required to make full restitution and consent to the dissolution of “Think Big.” He pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by unlawful taking in September 2021.
“Protecting New Jerseyans from investment fraud and other scams is a priority for our office,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “This case demonstrates our willingness to use all the tools at our disposal – civil and criminal – to protect residents from financial exploitation.”
“Today we are telling those who financially prey on investors, you will face justice,” said Director Lyndsay Ruotolo of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We are committed to working with the Bureau of Securities to investigate and prosecute those who engage in investment fraud and urge individuals who believe they have been defrauded to contact the Division of Criminal Justice at 866-TIPS-4CJ.”
“The Bureau is committed to doing everything in its power to protect investors from unscrupulous financial professionals,” said Amy Kopleton, Acting Chief of the Bureau of Securities. “The Bureau’s ability to refer this matter to the Division of Criminal Justice was key to obtaining justice with a criminal conviction and restitution for the investors whose money he stole.”
Nicholson was initially investigated by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, which referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau for criminal investigation. In April 2021 the Bureau of Securities found that Nicholson and Think Big operated a fraud against investors and issued a Cease and Desist Order against them to prevent further violations of the New Jersey Uniform Securities Law.
From 2008 through 2017, Nicholson recruited a group of 24 investors to invest in Think Big. Nicholson acted as an unregistered investment adviser solely responsible for investment decisions in Think Big. Eventually, Think Big incurred substantial losses, due in part to failed investments. Around that time, Nicholson began to misappropriate investor monies by withdrawing existing investment monies and new investments in Think Big for his personal benefit.
Nicholson hid substantial investment losses by Think Big by creating fraudulent investment statements showing false positive returns. The 24 investors lost $471,602, representing the amount of their principal investments less dividends they received.
Deputy Attorney General Janet Bosi prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Mark Kurzawa, Bureau Chief Jillian Carpenter, and DCJ Deputy Director Derek Nececkas. Former Det. Roxanna Ordonez-Fresse worked on the case from DCJ, under the supervision of Lt. Vincent Gaeta.
The investigation by the Bureau of Securities was supervised and conducted by now Acting Chief of the New Jersey Bureau of Securities Amy Kopleton, Chief of Enforcement Richard Szuch, Supervising Investigator Michael McElgunn, and Investigators Michael LaChappelle and Maureen Morin.
Defense Attorney: Alan G. Peyrouton, Esq., Hackensack, N.J.