Updated at 7:50 p.m. Aug. 7, 2012
A former Navy SEAL accused of stealing more than $1 million from fellow SEALs and others after getting them to invest in his money-lending business pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple charges of grand theft and securities violations.
Jason Matthew Mullaney, 40, was ordered held on $2 million bail.
Deputy District Attorney Hector Jimenez said Mullaney used his standing as a former SEAL to get others to invest in his Trident Financial Holdings & Acquisitions, then used the money for his personal gain.
Mullaney earlier started Trident Global Corp. of Kearny Mesa, whose website boasts a Navy SEAL logo.
Testimonials from SEALs salute current manager Loren Uber, who says it was managed by a Navy SEAL veteran starting in 2008 but ending in 2011, when Uber took over.
But Tuesday night, Uber said Trident Global was not being targeted. Uber was upset by client reports that at least one media outlet aired his picture and phone number on the 5 p.m. news.
But he offered his own testimonial about Mullaney.
“I will say that Jason is a very good friend of mine and I consider him a brother to me,” Uber said via email Tuesday night. “He would help out anyone in need. He never had any ill will or meant to cause trouble. He was an outstanding SEAL and very well-respected in the community. It is extremely unfortunate of the events that are happening.”
Uber began working with Mullaney in summer 2009 to “work real estate and home loans for his friends,” Uber said. “Everything that is going on now was prior to my arrival and I don’t know any details of how or what all happened there.”
A special advertising section in the March 2011 San Diego magazine listed Mullaney as a “five-star” real estate agent.
In his 2008 filing (attached as PFF) with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mullaney described Trident as “an asset-based lender (hard money), providing loans to individuals or business entities engaged in commercial projects typically involving real estate, although some loans will not relate to real estate. We do not expect to make consumer loans.”
So far, investigators have identified 13 possible victims, including former and active SEALs, the prosecutor said.
“If people wanted to borrow money, Mr. Mullaney would give you a hard loan, with interest. That was the plan anyway, Jimenez said outside court.
“Mr. Mullaney got people to invest in his company so he could have money to lend. He made some loans, but unfortunately, he didn't use the money as he said he would.”
Jimenez told Judge David Szumowski that Mullaney was a flight risk because he had no roots in San Diego, was unemployed and had traveled to Thailand recently “to get away from his problems.”
Mullaney faces 34 years in prison if convicted. He will be back in court Friday for a bail review and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 20.
—City News Service contributed to this report.