'We trusted them completely. They cheated us. I hope there are good people in Israel who will help us'

Swedish binary options victim tracks brokers to Israel, files police complaint

Tommy Rutgersson, who lost €100,000 to SecuredOptions, pleads with Israeli authorities to help him get his money back

Simona Weinglass is an investigative reporter at The Times of Israel.

Ronald (l) and Tommy Rutgersson of Stockholm  lost 70,000 euros to  SecuredOptions, which operates from Israel (Courtesy)
Ronald (l) and Tommy Rutgersson of Stockholm lost 70,000 euros to SecuredOptions, which operates from Israel (Courtesy)

Tommy and Ronald Rutgersson did not grow up rich. In fact, shortly after Tommy was born in 1948 in the Swedish town of Göteborg, his mother fell ill, and he and his twin brother Ronald were sent to live in foster homes. Relying only on each other for support, they have remained inseparable.

“Neither of us married, and we decided it was easier to live together because there would be one rent bill, one heating bill,” Tommy said.

Tommy worked for over three decades as an administrator for a drama school in Stockholm while Ronald was a chief aide to a government official. When they retired, they started looking for ways to supplement their income.

“We wanted to have more money in our wallets, a better life and we wanted to pay off some of our debts,” Tommy recalled.

Tommy researched online and found out about “binary options,” which promised high yields in a short time period. He signed up to learn more, and in May 2016 was telephoned by a flirtatious and attentive personal account manager who told him her name was “Kate Miller.”

Kate had a bit of a Russian accent and made a lot of spelling mistakes in English, but explained this away by saying she was from Greece. Kate said she wanted “the best” for Tommy, called him “darling,” and even expressed admiration for karaoke clips he sent her. “I didn’t realize you could sing at that level!” she exclaimed.

She promised him a minimum of 30 percent profit in the first month with no risk on his part because his account was fully insured. She told him that SecuredOptions is regulated by the British Financial Conduct Authority (it is not).

Cajoled by Kate and other brokers, who went by the names of James Bennett, Richard Adams and Richard Fischer, Tommy and his brother Ronald put in close to 100,000 euros. He opened his account in May. By November, it was down to €30,000. One day, the remaining €30,000 simply disappeared, and SecuredOptions stopped responding to his phone calls.

Secured Options (screenshot)
Secured Options (screenshot)

“We are in a very bad situation.” he told The Times of Israel. “We are both 68 years old and it’s a great burden upon us. All these bills which have to be paid every month. We just want our money back so we can pay back our loans, that’s all.”

The Times of Israel has been exposing Israel’s fraudulent binary options industry in a series of articles since March, beginning with an article entitled “The Wolves of Tel Aviv,” and has estimated that the industry here numbers over 100 companies, most of which are fraudulent and employ a variety of ruses to steal their clients’ money. These firms lure their victims into making what they are duped into believing will be profitable short-term investments, but in the overwhelming majority of cases the clients wind up losing all or almost all of their money. Thousands of Israelis work in the field, which is estimated to have fleeced billions of dollars from victims all over the world in the past decade.

The Prime Minister’s Office last month condemned the industry’s “unscrupulous practices” and called for it to be outlawed worldwide.

Two weeks ago, ISA chairman Shmuel Hauser told The Times of Israel that consultations had begun on the framing of legislation to bar all Israel-based binary options operations from targeting anybody, anywhere. (Israeli firms are already banned from targeting Israelis.) The consultations have extended to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and to the government, he said.

Tracking down his brokers

SecuredOptions employees told Tommy they were located in London and used fake names. But as soon as he started to sense something was not right, he researched online and found out that SecuredOptions operates from Tel Aviv.

He visited the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm to complain that he had been cheated out of his money, but to no avail. Nor were the Swedish authorities helpful.

He further discovered that the company had transferred his funds to Swedbank in Latvia, and from there to Ceska Sportilena (Erste Bank) in Prague, but neither bank was responsive to his pleas.

Tel Aviv's Electra Building is home to multiple binary options firms (Lior4040 / Wikipedia)
Tel Aviv’s Electra Building is home to multiple binary options companies (Lior4040 / Wikipedia)

Realizing that the scammers were in Israel, Rutgersson got in touch with Israeli lawyer Nimrod Assif, who was able to ascertain the real names, ID numbers and phone numbers of the brokers that Rutgersson had dealt with.

Assif also called the owner of Express Target Marketing, Eliran Saada. Express Target Marketing is the Israeli company that operates the SecuredOptions and InsideOption brands. Saada confirmed to Assif that he had been the owner of Express Target Marketing, but said he had decided binary options was a dirty business and left several months ago. (Saada — along with lawyer Moshe Strugano, who holds the shares in trust on behalf of a client — is still registered as the company’s owner in Israel’s corporate registry.)

Assif told The Times of Israel on Sunday that he has filed complaints with the Israeli police and the Israel Securities Authority against the company’s owners and salespeople. Many salespeople in the binary options industry believe their aliases will protect them, but, legal experts say, they could be personally liable to their thousands of victims. (Earlier this month, the Israel Securities Authority raided the Ramat Gan offices of iTrader, a company that offered binary options and forex trading to the Israeli public, and arrested not only senior managers but also salespeople.)

Despite the embarrassment of having lost all his money, Tommy Rutgersson decided to come forward with his story so that others will not fall into the same trap.

“SecuredOptions knows that we were retired, that we took out loans to fund our account and were vulnerable. They know the risk we took in that we trusted them completely. And despite that, they cheated us. We were naive. I hope there are good people in Israel who will help us.”

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