SEC Files Charges in Massachusetts Pump-And-Dump Scam, International Microcap Fraud, and Issues Investor Alert

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against California Attorney Richard Weed, Coleman Flaherty, and Thomas Brazil. The regulator contends that Weed facilitated a pump and dump scam involving CitySide Tickets Inc. stock that allowed Flaherty and Brazil to get millions of supposedly unrestricted shares.

Investors were barraged with a misleading and false promotional campaign presenting CitySide Tickets as a company in the verge of expansion and success. As the stock price went up, Flaherty and Brazil sold their shares to investors, causing the two of them to make about $3 million in illicit proceeds. Weed purportedly was well compensated for the role that he played.

The Commission charges the three men with violating federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions and related rules. The agency wants disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, interest, penalties, permanent injunctions against further violations, and penny stock bars. Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has filed a parallel criminal case against Flaherty, Brazil, and Weed.

Also this week, the SEC charged two people with running an international microcap fraud scheme involving shares in a coal mining company. Bruce D. Strebinger and Brent Howard Chapman are accused of setting up multi-million dollar campaign to promote the stock, getting rid of their shares, and moving the money they made via accounts that were offshore. The Commission says that it was after Strebinger helped to make a merger between Americas Energy Company-AECo and another company that he and Chapman obtained over 5% of the common stock. They did not, however, publicly disclose that they had an ownership stake.

Their pump-and-dump scam purportedly involved offshore corporations, foreign financial institutions, and foreign accounts. Strebinger and Chapman reportedly made over $17 million.

It was just last week that the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued an alert warning investors that certain penny stocks that are being promoted as ventures with great potential are actually dormant shell companies. The agencies said that to avoid such scams, they recommend that investors:

· Look into whether a company was previously dormant and then revived. You can do this by checking the SEC’s EDGAR database to see when the last periodic report was filed.

· Watch out for the letter “Q” at the end of a stock symbol, which is an indicator that the company had previously filed for bankruptcy.

· Find out where the company’s stock trades. If it doesn’t trade on a registered national securities exchange then consider this a red flag.

· Look out for frequent changes to the name of a company or its business focus.

· Look out for huge reverse splits.

Read the SEC Complaint Against Weed, Brazil, and Flaherty (PDF)

Investor Alert: Dormant Shell Companies – How to Protect Your Portfolio from Fraud,
SEC Charges Two Canadian Citizens With Penny Stock Fraud Involving Tennessee Coal Mining Company, SEC, November 3, 2014

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Detroit Suburb Charged with Muni Bond Fraud, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 6, 2014