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November 17, 2014

The SEC charged three penny stock promoters Anthony Thompson, Jay Fung, and Eric Van Nguyen with conducting pump-and-dump schemes involving stocks they were touting in their supposedly independent newsletters for Blast Applications Inc., Smart Holdings Inc., Blue Gem Enterprise Inc., Lyric Jeans Inc.and Mass Hysteria Entertainment Company Inc.  According to the SEC, the defendants worked in coordinated fashion to gain control of a large portion of shares in the stock of these microcap companies and then hyped those stocks in newsletters they distributed to prospective investors.  After creating demand for the stock and increasing the value, they sold their holdings at the higher prices and earned significant profits.  Once they stopped their promotional efforts, the demand for the stocks subsided and the prices dropped, leaving investors who had purchased the promoters’ shares with significant losses.  The defendants allegedly conducted five separate schemes that resulted in more than $10M in ill-gotten gains.  SEC

November 17, 2014

The SEC charged Joseph A. Noel, CEO of San Francisco-based penny stock company YesDTC Holdings, with defrauding investors by issuing false and misleading press releases portraying his purported marketing and infomercial company as a successful venture in order to drive the stock price up while he covertly sold millions of shares into the public market for more than $300,000 in illicit profits. SEC

November 6, 2014

The SEC charged California attorney Richard Weed behind a pump-and-dump scheme that defrauded investors in the Boston-based ticket brokering business CitySide Tickets, Inc.  According to the SEC, Weed created backdated promissory notes and authored false legal opinion letters that enabled Thomas Brazil and Coleman Flaherty to obtain millions of purportedly unrestricted shares of stock in the company.  Investors were then blitzed with a false and misleading promotional campaign touting CitySide Tickets as a budding national leader on the verge of acquiring smaller ticket firms across the country and positioning itself as an attractive takeover target for Ticketmaster.  As the company’s stock price increased on the false hype, Brazil and Flaherty sold their shares to unsuspecting investors for illicit proceeds of approximately $3M.  Shortly thereafter, the market for CitySide Tickets stock collapsed and the company eventually went out of business.  SEC  

November 3, 2014

The SEC charged Canadian citizens Bruce D. Strebinger and Brent Howard Chapman with conducting an international microcap fraud scheme by stockpiling shares in the coal mining company Americas Energy Company and funding a multi-million dollar promotional campaign to hype the stock while simultaneously dumping their shares and routing the proceeds through offshore accounts.  According to the SEC, as the scheme was attracting new investors and Americas Energy’s share price was significantly increasing, Strebinger and Chapman were secretly selling their shares through an intricate web of offshore corporations, foreign accounts, and financial institutions located in Canada, Nevis, Panama, Switzerland, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Strebinger and Chapman generated proceeds of more than $17M through their elaborate scheme.  SEC

October 16, 2014

New York City-based high frequency trading firm Athena Capital Research agreed to pay $1M to settle charges it placed a large number of aggressive, rapid-fire trades in the final two seconds of almost every trading day during a six-month period to manipulate the closing prices of thousands of NASDAQ-listed stocks.  This marks the first high frequency trading manipulation case.  According to the government, Athena Capital used an algorithm that was code-named Gravy to engage in a practice known as “marking the close” in which stocks are bought or sold near the close of trading to affect the closing price.  The massive volumes of Athena’s last-second trades allowed Athena to overwhelm the market’s available liquidity and artificially push the closing market price in Athena’s favor.  Athena was well aware of the price impact of its algorithmic trading, calling it “owning the game” in internal e-mails.  SEC

August 15, 2014

The SEC charged Andrew I. Farmer and his Houston-based penny stock company Chimera Energy for a pump-and-dump scheme that misled investors to believe the company was on the brink of developing revolutionary technology to enable environmentally friendly oil-and-gas production.  According to the SEC, Chimera issued around three dozen press releases in a two-month period about its supposed licensing and development of technology to extract shale oil without the perceived environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing known as fracking.  However, Chimera Energy did not actually license or even possess the technology it touted and had not achieved the claimed results in commercially developing it.  While the stock was being pumped by the false claims, entities controlled by Farmer dumped more than 6 million shares on the public markets for illicit proceeds of more than $4.5M.  SEC

July 17, 2014

The SEC charged the CEO and president of a supposed merchant banking firm, braxas “A.J.” Discala and Marc E. Wexler, with teaming up with brokers and the CEO of the medical education company CodeSmart, Ira Shapiro, to inflate the price of the company’s stock and profit at the expense of the brokers’ customers.  According to the SEC, they acquired 3 million restricted shares of CodeSmart stock following its reverse merger into a public shell company in May 2013, and improperly flooded the market with the shares as though they were unrestricted.  CodeSmart’s stock price crashed from a peak of nearly $7 per share to where it is currently trading at below 10 cents.  SEC

July 2, 2014

The SEC charged five traders for committing short selling violations while trading for themselves and Worldwide Capital Inc.  This is the Long Island, N.Y.-based proprietary firm that in March paid $7.2M, the largest-ever monetary sanction, for Rule 105 violations.  Rule 105 prohibits the short sale of an equity security during a restricted period – generally five business days before a public offering – and the subsequent purchase of that same security through the offering.  SEC

June 25, 2014

The SEC announced it has charged two additional brokers with trading on inside information ahead of the $1.2B acquisition of SPSS Inc. in 2009 by IBM Corporation.  The SEC alleged that former brokers Benjamin Durant III and Daryl M. Payton illegally traded on a tip about the acquisition from Thomas C. Conradt, a friend and fellow broker in the New York office of a Connecticut-based broker-dealer.  SEC
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