SEC Crackdown on ‘Pump and Dump’ Scams

Mar 12, 2007 2:14pm

Asa Eslocker contributed to this report: For the fourth time in three months, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is bringing charges in what it calls a ‘pump and dump’ scam case. This case marks the first time, however, that arrests have been made in what has become an increasingly popular form of cybercrime. The SEC is vowing that foreign fraudsters who target U.S. citizens will be brought to justice here in the U.S. In today’s action, three Indian nationals were charged with operating a scam in which they allegedly manipulated the stock prices of at least 14 securities through the unauthorized use of other people’s online brokerage accounts. According to a related indictment unsealed by the Department of Justice today, the defendants "repeatedly hijacked the online brokerage accounts of unwitting investors using stolen usernames and passwords." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The defendants would then use the victims’ funds to place scores of buy orders in securities to drive up the prices, the indictment says. Then the defendants would allegedly sell their own position in the securities at the artificially inflated prices. The indictment says the defendants made over $120,000 in the scam, which is known as ‘pump and dump’. One defendant, Jaisankar Marimuthu, allegedly realized a 92 percent return on his investments in under an hour. One defrauded victim returned home from a five-day fishing trip to Alaska to find his online brokerage account had gone from a cash and equity balance of $180,000 to a balance of negative $200,000, according to the complaint. "Hackers who prey on American investors — no matter what continent they’re operating from — are meeting their match with powerful adversaries in the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission," said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. "We will go anywhere on earth to stop these thieves and hold them accountable." Two of the defendants, Marimuthu and Thirugnanam Ramanathan, are in custody in Hong Kong. The third, Chockalingam Ramanathan, is at large. The U.S. is seeking the extradition of the arrested defendants to face charges in Nebraska.

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