The Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating Aequitas and the firm was months away from collapse.
Robert Jesenik, former CEO of Aequitas and founder of the company, took to the witness stand Monday. He revealed the details behind the alleged high-flying expenditures.
Surena Vukovich was employed by the Lake Oswego company from January 2012 to December 2015, two months prior to its demise. She interacted daily with Jesenik who is currently on trial for multiple counts of wire and mail fraud in U.S. District Court Portland. Former executives Andrew MacRitchie, Brian Rice, and Jesenik are also charged.
Vukovich's administrative duties included paying Aequitas bills. He described an 'event grand' that took place in September 2015 at Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach, California, for Aequitas top executives and wives. The U.S. attorney entered an invoice of $77,935 as evidence. Vukovich said that the bill likely amounted to $100,000 if you include the two corporate jets of Aequitas, ground transport and an offsite dinner.
She said, 'It's a resort that's surrounded by hills and celebrities'. Each executive and his wife got their own villa. Vukovich, along with another assistant, also stayed at a villa which she said was "bigger than my house."
She testified that Jesenik’s monthly expense reports averaged about $50,000. Vukovich testified that Aequitas paid for the following expenses:
Membership in Exclusive Resorts for Jesenik, the other partners and themselves for approximately $42,000 each
She testified that Vukovich was seated just a few steps from Jesenik’s office and became acquainted with him.
Vukovich said: 'You need to know your executive's personality, the way they communicate, receive information, and perceive it. You also have to understand how he will respond to certain situations.
She described Jesenik, a hands-on manager who was exacting and held her accountable for each bottle of wine brought in.
Vukovich said that he knew everything about the company and that Bob was not unaware of anything. Vukovich testified that he was very knowledgeable about finances. He knew what money was coming in and going out, as well as everything that had to be signed.
She testified that he was not someone she crossed.
Vukovich said that he was a very authoritative man. He was smart and didn't want to be told what to do.