Articles Posted in Pump and Dump Scams

Businessman Settles SEC Case Over Immigrant Visa-Related Investor Scam
Ariel Quiros, a businessman accused of defrauding foreign investors seeking to earn US residency through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, has agreed to the settle the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against him. As part of the settlement, which a court still has to approve, Quiros will be held liable for over $81M in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and a $1M penalty. He also has to forfeit about $417K.

Over 700 investors from at least 75 nations invested with Quiros. Their funds were supposed to go toward “construction projects at the Jay Peak Resort and a proposed (nearby) biomedical research facility,” said the SEC. Instead, contends the regulator, Quiros misused over $50M to buy another ski resort and pay for his own spending, including the purchase of two luxury condos. He also failed to direct about $30M to the construction projects, which was necessary for these investors to become US residents.

Now, Quiros must give up the two condos and the resort that he bought using investors’ funds, as well as surrender his ownership stake in Jay Peak and many other properties.

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In a second superseding indictment to an ongoing Texas securities fraud probe, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas has brought criminal charges again against several people accused in an alleged multimillion dollar pump-and-dump scam. This latest indictment expands on the original criminal charges, which involved Chimera Energy Corp. stock and an alleged $6M scam.

With this latest indictment, investors of 12 stocks were allegedly defrauded of more than $25M. Prosecutors said that the scam bilked investors in different companies through the use of fraudulent trading practices, the publication of misleading and false information via ads and press releases, and the circumvention of Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements.

Those charged in this latest Texas securities indictment include Andrew Ian Farmer, Charles Earl Grob, Carolyn Price Austin and Eddie Douglas Austin of Houston, John David Brotherton of League City, and Scott Russel Sieck of Florida for the parts they played in the alleged conspiracy fraud involving a dozen stocks, including Chimera Energy Corp. stock. The latter was the stock involved in the initial criminal indictment that brought charges against both Farmer and Thomas Galen Massey, also a Houston resident.

According to prosecutors, criminal charges have been brought against 14 people over their alleged involvement in a $14.7M investment scam that primarily targeted older investors. The US Attorney’s office alleges that between 1/2014 and 1/2017 the defendants and others sought to defraud the investors and prospective investors of certain companies by attempting to artificially manipulate the volume and price when shares were traded.

The group allegedly hid that they were behind the rigging of these companies’ shares through a pump-and-dump boiler room scam. They are accused of manipulating share trading pattens while aggressively soliciting senior citizens by phone to try and persuade them to buy the shares.

When their targets showed a willingness to buy the stock being solicited to them, the boiler room employees would allegedly pressure them to buy, sometime even charging them subscriptions so that they could receive future stock recommendations. Investors were not notified that the employees and others they conspired with had sold their own shares in these companies.
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Stock Promoters Accused in Pump-and-Dump Scam
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against James M. Farinella, his Integrated Capital Partners Inc., Anthony Amado, and his Equity Awareness Group with fraud over the alleged inflation and manipulation of a microcap company’s share price. As a result of the alleged pump-and-dump scam, the fraud made over $1M.

According to the regulator, Farinella and his consulting firm controlled almost the whole public float of stock in Pazoo Inc. Farinella paid Amado’s company to promote the microcap issuer and take part in matched trading to make it appear as if there was market activity for the stock. Amado and one of his employees, Carlo Palomino, are accused of enacting the scam, which allowed Farinella to make over $1M when dumping the Pazoo shares.

New Jersey prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Farinella over the microcap fraud allegations.

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Registered Investment Adviser and Broker Convicted in $15M Pump-and-Dump Scam
A federal jury has found Sheik F. Kahn, a Nevada RIA, and Christopher Cervino, a New Jersey broker, guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in an over $15M stock scam that targeted 100 investors. Kahn also was convicted of aggravated identity theft crimes and investment adviser fraud. Both she and Cervino were previously affiliated with New York-based firm Primary Capital.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the pump-and-dump scam involved VGTEL (VGTL), a publicly traded over-the-counter company. The securities scam was led by Edward Durante, who pleaded guilty last year to a number of crimes, including securities fraud, conspiracy, perjury, and money laundering involving VGTL.

Cervino and Kahn are accused of artificially inflating the stock price of VGTel from 25 cents/share to up to $1.90/share in 2012 and they also inflated trading volume, raising their ability to bring in private investments in the stock.

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Chicago Hedge Fund Manager Gets Over Four Years in $1.8M Fraud
Clayton Cohn is sentenced to more than four years behind bars and he will pay $1.55M in restitution for targeting military veterans in a $1.8M hedge fund fraud. Cohn is an ex-US Marine. He pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him.

Cohn is accused of pretending to be a successful hedge fund manager to persuade clients to invest with his Marketaction Capital Management. Of the over $1.8M that was invested,he lost more than $1.5M and spent at least $400K on his luxury lifestyle and business investments.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission had brought civil charges against him in 2013 when they accused Cohn of soliciting investors through his Veterans Financial Education Network. The non-profit was supposed to help veterans handle their money. Instead, he diverted some of their funds toward himself. The regulator stayed its case against him following the federal indictments. Now, the civil fraud charges will proceed.

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Chad Peter Smanjak has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Smanjak admitted to operating a pump-and-dump scam linked to a company founded by Daniel Ruettiger, also known as Rudy. Ruettiger’s time playing football at Notre Dame was retold in the movie “Rudy.”

Smanjak is accused of targeting over 250 investors in his penny stock scam, which made at least $5M in profits. Although he had co-conspirators, Smanjak was the only person indicted in this securities case.

The penny stock in the scam was issued by Rudy Nutrition, which Ruettiger founded. The sports drink company claimed it was selling health conscious drinks.

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SEC Files Fraud Charges Against Unregistered Representatives in $5M Fraud
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained an asset freeze against Matthew White, Daniel Merandi, and Rodney Zehner for alleged financial fraud. The three men are not registered to sell investments. They are accused of raising over $5M from investors and spending the money on expensive shopping expeditions.

According to the SEC, Merandi, White, and Zehner fraudulently issued $1B in unsecured corporate bonds using their shell company. They said the funds would go toward developing a resort. Although they never raised enough money to begin the project, they took $5.6M that they did raise from investors and went shopping at Gucci, Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue, Versace, and Louis Vuitton. The men allegedly conducted bogus transactions to raise the bond’s price even though the securities were expired and had no value.

The Commission is accusing Merandi, White, Zehner, and their companies of violating the Securities Act of 1933’s Section 17(a) antifraud provision, the Exchange Act of 1934’s Section 10(b), and Rule10b-5. It wants permanent injunctions, penalties, and disgorgement.

Broker Pleads Guilty to Fraud Involving $131M Market Manipulation Scam
Registered broker Naveed Khan has pleaded guilty to securities fraud. Khan faces up to 20 years behind bars for his involvement in a $131M pump-and-dump scam that involved the market manipulation of ForceField Energy Inc. (FNRG).

Between 1/09 and 4/15, the defendant and others sought to bilk ForceField investors. The fraudsters are accused of using nominees to sell and buy the LED company’s stock without notifying current investors and potential ones, orchestrating trading to make it seem as if the public was interested in ForceField’s stock, and hiding payments made to brokerage firms and stock promoters. These broker-dealers purportedly marketed and sold the stock under the guise of being independent.

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Government Charges Convicted Broker with More Fraud Charges
Jeffrey Martinovich is charged with 13 new counts of fraud. He is is ex-head of MICG Investment Management and was convicted of 17 fraud charges three years ago.

Martinovich is accused of improperly moving over $700K from a company hedge fund in 2010. According to prosecutors, he spent $170K of the funds for his legal defense fees and at least $59K on his personal expenses. He also purportedly took out over $147K more from the hedge fund account.

It was in 2011 that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority expelled Martinovich and his firm for securities fraud, improperly using client money, and causing false statements to be sent to investors related to the MICG Venture Strategies LLC, a proprietary hedge fund. The self-regulatory organization said that Martinovich and MICG improperly assigned asset values that were excessive to two non-public securities.

FINRA said that the assets’ value were inflated so that incentive and management fee could be increased.

Offshore Broker Pleads Guilty in $250M Pump-and-Dump Scam
Gregg Mulholland has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for operating a pump-and-dump-scam that manipulated shares of over 40 companies in the U.S. One company, Cynk Technology, saw its share price increase by 24,000%.

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Connecticut Firm Accused of Conflict of Interest Involving $43M Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing fraud charges against Atlantic Asset Management LLC (AAM). The regulator says that the Connecticut-based investment advisory firm got clients involved in certain bonds that resulted in an undisclosed financial benefit to a brokerage firm whose parent company is part owner of AAM.

The firm is accused of investing over $43M of investor money in illiquid bonds that were issued by a Native American tribal corporation. The sales provided the brokerage-firm with a private placement fee.

The SEC says that investors should have been notified of the financial gain that resulted and the firm violated its obligation to them when it placed its own financial interests before client’s interests.

In its complaint the SEC says that it was a representative from BFG Socially Responsible Investing Ltd., which partially owns AAM, who suggested that the investment advisory firm buy the illiquid bonds for clients. AAM purportedly knew that the bond sale proceeds would to go toward an annuity that the parent company provided.

The Commission says that after finding out that their money had been placed in the bonds, several AAM clients demanded that the investments be unwound but their requests were unsuccessful.

Ex-Investment Adviser Pleads Guilty to Securities and Annuities Scam
Janet Fooshee has pleaded guilty to 31 charges related to a $1.178M financial scam involving securities and annuities. The 63-year-old former New Jersey investment adviser admitted to fraudulently servicing over 100 financial account statements that increased 14 client accounts by about $818K collectively. She also admitted to stealing about $151K from clients, keeping over $190K in unlawful fees, defrauding another investor of almost $81K, and stealing the identities of about eight corporations. Fooshee said that she illegally took funds from over two dozen retirees and others over a period spanning a decade.

Fooshee also used the names Janet Katz and Janet Gurley. As part of the plea deal she must pay $415K in restitution. A seven-year prison term is recommended for her.
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