Nine people have been charged in one of the largest international penny stock frauds ever, federal authorities said Tuesday in New York, one of five states where arrests were made.
"As alleged in the indictment, the defendants used our securities markets as a platform from which to run elaborate fraudulent schemes to victimize unsuspecting investors across the globe," said US Attorney Loretta Lynch.
According to court records, the defendants victimized investors in nearly three dozen countries and generated more than $140 million by fraudulently inflating the price of penny stocks and then dumping them on unsuspecting investors.
"The victims believed they would turn a profit on their nearly worthless penny stocks but never saw so much as a nickel," said FBI Special Agent in Charge April Brooks.
In a separate but related scheme the defendants are accused of operating boiler rooms to sell the worthless stocks and collect fees.
"The criminals behind this scheme were shameless in heartlessly defrauding hundreds of victims out of their savings and retirement accounts for their own enrichment," said James C. Spero, of Homeland Security Investigations in Buffalo.
The schemes were allegedly orchestrated by Sandy Winick, a Canadian living in Thailand. According to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, the schemes involved 11 "thinly traded companies with minimal assets and non-existent business operations, which in many cases were mere shell companies."
At one point prosecutors said Winick boasted about his ability to conceal the alleged scam compared to another more obvious scam, stating: "That deal is obviously a pump and dump. We know enough to be subtle."
Winick is not in custody. Neither is co-defendant Gregory Curry who is accused of deceiving victims.
The other seven defendants are in custody, including Joseph Manfredonia of New Jersey whose role, according to the indictment, was to generate "false press releases to promote" the penny stocks. Cort Poyner of Florida, who was also arrested Tuesday, is accused of bribing brokers to purchase the penny stocks on behalf of their clients.
Authorities caught defendant Kolt Curry on a wiretap describing the scheme this way: "I would say that 100 percent of these stocks are like uh pink uh… just dumps . . . . so … ya know they're totally, they're like, so a lot of these guys are dying . . . . to get rid of this crap. . . . The money is good, it's easy. It's easy money. Definitely easy money, and it's good money."