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Articles Posted in Pump and Dump Scams

State Street To Pay More Than $88M After Overcharging For Mutual Funds

State Street Bank and Trust Company will pay over $88M to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing it of overcharging investment advisory clients, including mutual funds, for expenses related to its custody of client assets. From 1998 to 2015, State Street allegedly collected $170M in overcharges involving out-of-pocket custodial costs that it paid on behalf of clients. While the clients had consented to pay for these costs, they did not agree to being overcharged for them.

Of the $170M in excessive charges, $110M was for a concealed markup added to the charge for transmitting financial messages via the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. As part of the settlement, State Street will pay almost $49M of disgorgement plus prejudgment interest and a $40M penalty.

Investors in Alleged $2.3M Prime Bank Fraud Were Promised Huge Profits

In the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) prime bank investment fraud case against Elizabeth Oharriz of Florida and Peter Baker of Georgia, the regulator is accusing the two of them and their companies of stealing more than $2.2M from investors. The Commission contends that Oharriz and Baker sold fake prime bank instruments from supposedly known banks while promising investors “astronomical profits.” The regulator’s complaint said that they also were also told that if these instruments could not be obtained, then their advance payments would be returned to them.

Instead, claims the SEC, Oharriz and Baker allegedly used investors’ money for their own personal spending or sent the funds to third parties. Meantime, investors were given bogus bank instruments along with accompanying documents.


Steele Financial is Accused of Investor Fraud

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against investment advisory firm Steele Financial Inc. and its owner Tamara Steele. According to the regulator, they allegedly sold $13M of risky securities to over 120 advisory clients. A lot of these clients are teachers, ex-teachers, or other public education employees. The SEC contends that Steele and her investment advisory firm did not tell them that Steele Financial would be making up to 18% in commissions in sales.

According to the Commission’s investment advisory fraud complaint, from 12/2012 to 10/2016, Stele Financial and Steele sold over $15M of Behavioral Recognition Systems Inc. securities. BRS is a company that the SEC has charged with fraud in the past. Meantime, Stele and her firm made over $2.5M of commissions.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Wedbush Securities Inc. The regulator is accusing the brokerage firm of not supervising registered representative Timary Delorme, 59, and disregarding warning signs that she was involved in a pump-and-dump fraud that targeted retail investors. Delorme has settled the SEC’s charges against her.

According to the SEC, Delorme took part in certain trades to manipulate the stocks. She received benefits, which were paid to her spouse, for getting customers to invest in microcap stocks that were part of a pump-and-dump fraud run by Izak Zirk Engelbrecht, who also has been subject to civil, as well as criminal charges. Engelbrecht, previously called Izak Zirk de Maison before adopting his wife’s last name, is accused of running the scam that involved microcap company Gepco Ltd.

Also, Delorme and her husband are accused of selling shares for Engelbrecht and sending him the money for the sales while she was paid a commission. This purportedly allowed Engelbrecht to hide the sales.

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Fyre Festival Founder Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud and Must Pay Back Investors

Billy McFarland, the founder of the failed Fyre Festival who pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, must may pay back millions of dollars to investors whom he bilked. In Manhattan federal court, McFarland acknowledged that he received more than $26M in investor funds for the Bahamas festival that promised catered dining, luxury accommodations, and renowned performers. Instead, attendees were greeted with no food or tent accommodations.

Billboard reports that eventually prepackaged sandwiches were served, local musicians performed, and the festival was postponed even though it had already begun. Travelers who headed back home encountered rescheduled and delayed flights. Many festival employees went unpaid.

The FBI arrested McFarland last summer. He has since admitted that he solicited investors using bogus documents touting financial holdings that he didn’t possess.

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In its first customer protection advisory regarding pump-and-dump scams involving virtual currencies, tokens, or digital coins, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission cautioned that even seasoned investors could be targeted. The regulator recommended that customers do a good job of researching prospective investments, learn the signs of possible investment fraud, and stay away from investments that “they don’t fully understand.”

Pump-and-dump scams typically involve raising the demand for a stock, and as a result, its share price, before dumping whatever shares are left so that the stock price drops. Remaining investors are left with practically worthless stock while the fraudsters usually have made a profit from dumping (selling) their shares when the stock price was still high. The CFTC is cautioning that this same fraud is now being used with virtual currencies.

Online message boards, mobile messaging applications, and other new technologies are now taking the place of boiler rooms to handle the solicitation of money from prospective investors, with some chat rooms holding thousands of members. It is also that fake news about these virtual investments is being published.

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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 stock rigging 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 stock rigging fraud of these companies’ shares through a pump-and-dump boiler room scam. They are accused of manipulating share trading patterns 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, sometimes 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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