By David Pendered
The former CEO of a defunct Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce who resides in Alpharetta has been charged with $ 9 million fraud from investors who shared his Turkish background, were recently from Turkey and spoke little English.
The $ 9 million was insufficient to deter the businessman from filing for federal bankruptcy protection. According to his voluntary filing for bankruptcy protection, filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Atlanta on October 2, 2019, he sought a debt of $ 10 million to $ 50 million to up to 49 creditors.
The list of debts starts at $ 4,000 owed to a Citibank credit card and quickly climbs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each of the dozen accounts until they get an unsecured claim of $ 4,046,296 from Valais Reached State Bank in Houston.
The indictment filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Omer Casurluk (also known as Timur Efe) and Star Chain Inc., a company he controls, harassed investors who had recently arrived from Turkey and for three years, 2016 to 2019 spoke little english.
During those three years, Casurluk was listed as CEO of the Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce in the southeastern United States, which was identified as a not-for-profit organization based in Roswell until the state dissolved it in 2020.
The SEC’s statement does not mention Casurluk’s involvement with the Turkish Chamber. His involvement in the Chamber appears in articles filed with the Georgia Secretary of State.
According to the scheme outlined by the SEC, Casurluk has simply lied to newcomers from Turkey about a method of buying into a restaurant franchise
“Investor victims in this case believed Casurluk presented them with a legitimate investment opportunity,” Nekia Hackworth Jones, director of the SEC’s Atlanta office, said in the statement. “Instead, as the lawsuit alleges, Casurluk has deceived investors by inflating restaurant purchase prices and using investor money to support his own lifestyle and independent business.”
Casurluk and his now-defunct Star Chain company reportedly offered newcomers the opportunity to invest in quick-casual restaurant franchises. These types of restaurants offer the convenience of fast food, with dining areas that are more convenient.
The deal presented to investors gave each of them an opportunity to acquire restaurant franchises by joining a 50-50 partnership with Star Chain, according to the SEC statement.
The scam came into play immediately, according to the SEC.
The purchase price that Casurluk and Star Chain showed the investors was higher than the actual price to be paid. The deal appeared to have 50-50 splits paid for by investors and Star Chain. In reality, only investor money went into the deal.
Another facet was that the investor’s name never appeared on any paperwork. According to the SEC statement, only Star Chain’s name was listed.
Finally, the SEC alleges that Casurluk used the investors’ money for his own use and to support other businesses he owned, including a construction company and independent fast food restaurants.
Casurluk had quickly risen to the ranks of the Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce in the southeastern United States, according to the state’s records.
From 2013 Casurluk appeared as a registered representative of the chamber. Three years later, in 2016, he took up the position of CEO. He stayed in this job until the Foreign Minister dissolved the Chamber as a body in October 2020 because he was unable to register and maintain his good reputation.
Both Casurluk and Star Chain have been indicted on multiple counts by the SEC in the Atlanta District Court. Both settled the case by admitting no wrongdoing and undertaking not to pursue the same business in the future. In addition, they have agreed on conditions to be determined for the payment of fines and penalties as well as the repayment of the funds they defrauded.