When the coronavirus sent Americans home, many people began investigating new projects, new hobbies and opportunities. You may know someone who has learned old-fashioned skills like gourmet cooking, quilting, sewing or other crafts, or taken up a new fitness routine. Others decide to learn new skills or improve the ones they have, from project management to SEO digital marketing and beyond.Still others who are home more have the time to learn more about investing as something that they postponed for “another day.” If you’ve been learning about investing you may have noticed a wide range of less expensive stocks available, frequently called “microcaps.” Some of them may be particularly appealing. But if you aren’t yet a sophisticated investor, it’s best to be cautious until you learn how everything works. Continue reading ›
The SEC obtained a preliminary injunction against two individuals and their companies on October 26, 2018. The fraudulent actions of these individuals resulted in more than $165 million of illegal sales and stock in at least 50 microcap companies.
According to the SEC, U.K. citizen Roger Knox and his Swiss-based company, Wintercap SA, was involved in antifraud and violating federal securities laws. German citizen Michael T. Gastauer and six of his entities were involved in aiding and abetting Knox and Wintercap’s violations of the same provisions. The court had originally entered a temporary restraining order and asset freeze on October 2, 2018.
The SEC’s complaint states that Knox and Wintercap aided microcap securities holders in evading federal securities laws that restrict sales by large shareholders. Knox and Wintercap gave anonymous access to brokerage accounts in order to sell shares in the U.S. market. They also helped sellers conceal the amount of stock they wanted to sell. Gastauer allegedly established several U.S. corporations to aid and abet the fraud, and allowed Knox to use certain bank accounts to distribute the proceeds of his illegal stock sales.
Home growers of medical marijuana will find no shortage of gardening supplies available made just for their crops. Our marijuana litigators are seeing many bogus suppliers.
One company that supplies equipment and supplies for the home grower is GrowLife, (PHOT) headquartered in Kirkland, Washington. With stores in Encino, CA, Portland, ME and Calgary, Alberta in Canada, GrowLife offers hydroponic equipment, nutrients, soils, lighting, indoor cultivation equipment and plant growing systems.
On September 19, 2018, the company issued a press release announcing a rights offering, allowing company shareholders to acquire additional shares of GrowLife common stock. Calling it The Offering, the company gives shareholders the opportunity to invest in the company to help it raise additional funding and continue to expand. This stock currently trades at around $0.0122, and is considered a “penny stock” or “microcap stock.” However, because these stocks are smaller, they don’t meet the minimum for trading on a national exchange like the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ. Information may be more difficult to find.
A pump and dump scheme is a method used by fraudsters to artificially boost the price of a security that they own shares of in order to make a profit. According to the Securities & Exchange Commission, pump and dump schemes consist of two parts. First, stock promoters will try to boost the stock price by sharing misleading or false statements about the underlying company’s performance. The promoters may use several methods to spread this false information, including cold calling, emailing, and social media. The promoters may claim to have inside information on the company, and will often encourage their followers to quickly purchase shares of the stock.
Then, once the stock price is inflated by this false information, the promoter will put his own shares of stock on the market, selling them at an artificially high price. This harms investors purchasing these shares because they now hold stock that may drop drastically in price once it is revealed that the information is false.
Engaging in a pump and dump scheme is a violation of both FINRA rules and federal securities laws. FINRA requires that its members refrain from engaging in fraudulent or deceptive practices. FINRA also requires its members to “observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.”
After serving 10 years in prison for prior securities law violations, investment fraud orchestrator Edward Durante is back in the news for allegations of a penny stock pump-and-dump scheme.
Durante was criminally charged in December 2015 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and civilly charged by the Securities Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) for defrauding at least 50 investors out of at least $11 million through the sale of securities of VGTel, Inc. (“VGTel”), a shell company Durante controlled.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Durante sold approximately six millions shares of VGTel stock to investors using various fictitious names to hide his criminal past, including “Edward Wise,” “Ted Wise,” “Efran Eisenberg,” and “Anthony Walsh.” He solicited and enlisted the aid of Larry Werbel (CRD# 828351) and his adviser firm Evolution Partners Wealth Management, LLC (“Evolution Partners”), Sheik Khan (CRD# 2448117), Christopher Cervino (CRD# 2778817), Walter Reissman, and Kenneth Wise to help perpetrate the scheme, according to the complaint.
A big name may not always equal big opportunity.
It’s all around us. Branded tennis shoes, hats and apparel worn by top-ranked, world-famous tennis players. NASCAR drivers and their cars blanketed in corporate logos. Famous models and actresses designing and promoting furniture lines. Top-selling country singers performing with beverage company logos adorning their stages, their tour buses and their fan t-shirts. Everywhere we turn, companies are promoting themselves with the help of famous people.
Why should penny stocks be any different?
Thomas Neil Charbonneau, of Minnesota, submitted a FINRA AWC in which he was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. Charbonneau was registered with Feltl and Company from March 2005 through October 2010. Charbonneau then joined Berthel Fisher & Company. Without admitting or denying the findings, Charbonneau consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he sold over 1.5 million shares of a speculative penny stock he owned, generating approximately $400,000, while he solicited and sold the same speculative penny stock to his clients without disclosing that he was selling his own proprietary holdings. Charbonneau’s conduct in failing to disclose his stock sales to his customers clearly prevented them from making an informed investment decision. The findings also stated that Charbonneau caused a customer to sign and initial in blank investment-related member firm documents pertaining to a potential investment in a REIT in contravention of his firm’s prohibition against such conduct. (FINRA Case #2010024882201)
Silver Law Group represents defrauded investors in FINRA arbitration claims for losses due to Wall Street malfeasance or stockbroker misconduct. We are currently investigating Thomas Neil Charbonneau and trading activity relating to penny stocks and the possibility of assisting any investors with the recovery of any losses they may have suffered. We primarily handle cases of this type on a contingency fee basis and advance the case costs, and only get paid for their fees and costs out of money they recover for their clients. Any investors that believe they lost any money as a result of Mr. Charbonneau’s alleged improper sale of penny stocks may contact the securities and investment fraud attorneys at Silver Law Group for a free, no-obligation evaluation of their recovery options, at (800) 975-4345.
Cantella & Co., Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts, submitted an AWC with FINRA in which the firm was censured, fined $50,000 and required to pay $81,973.65, plus interest, in restitution to customers for allegations relating to excessive commissions. Without admitting or denying the findings, Cantella consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that it charged customers excessive commissions on equity and options transactions. The findings stated that in connection with certain purchases and sales of primarily low-priced securities, the commissions the firm charged were not fair and reasonable. The transactions resulted in approximately $120,000 in excessive charges. The firm has already repaid customers approximately $42,000 of these excessive commissions related to equity transactions. The firm also charged $4,658.22 in excessive commissions in connection with options transactions. The findings also stated that the firm failed to create or follow an adequate supervisory system for the review of commissions charged. The firm blindly followed an automated commission schedule instead of reviewing each trade for fairness. (FINRA Case #2011025431801)
Silver Law Group represents investors in securities and investment fraud cases for claims including stockbroker misconduct, excessive fees or commissions and penny stock fraud. Our lawyers are admitted to practice in New York and Florida and represent investors nationwide to help recover investment losses due to stockbroker misconduct. If you have any questions about how your account has been handled, call to speak with an experienced securities attorney. Most cases handled on a contingent fee basis meaning that you do not pay legal fees unless we are successful.
The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged New York-based Premier Links, Inc., its former president, and two cold callers formed a fraudulent boiler room scheme targeting retirees and elderly to invest in speculative or high risk companies with limited or no real chance of making a profit.
The SEC alleges that Dwayne Malloy, Chris Damon, and Theirry Ruffin victimized vulnerable older investors using investors’ money for their own personal gain. Premier Links Inc. cold called investors using high-pressure sales tactics to convince seniors to invest in companies which would soon have initial public offerings (IPOs). They never disclosed to the investors that only a small fraction of the money would be transmitted to the promoted companies, and Premier Links diverted investor funds to other entities controlled by the sales representatives or other associates for their own use and benefit.
Premier Links, Malloy, Damon, and Ruffin were never registered with FINRA or as stockbrokers and fraudulently obtained over $8 million from more than 300 victims across the USA by building a relationship of purported trust and confidence with them. The SEC alleges that the defendants rarely even invested the money in the companies they were pitching.