SEC Charges Purported Biofuel Company and a Dozen Individuals in Chicago-Based Pump-and-Dump Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a purported biofuel company in Chicago and a dozen individuals in a pump-and-dump scheme that generated $4.4 million in illicit profits.
The SEC alleges that Bosko R. Gasich, a founder and principal shareholder of Zenergy International caused the company to enter into a reverse merger with a publicly traded shell entity called Paradigm Tactical Products. Using backdated convertible debt, Gasich caused Paradigm to issue 300 million shares of purportedly unrestricted stock to his family and friends, a lawyer who served as transaction counsel, stock promoters, and associates of Paradigm.
The SEC alleges that Gasich and Scott H. Wilding, who is the subject of a prior SEC cease-and-desist order, and several stock touters then conducted two promotional campaigns to generate investor interest in Zenergy. These touters failed to disclose the compensation they received for promoting Zenergy. The touting was accompanied by misleading press releases and financial disclosures that were reviewed and approved by Gasich and Robert J. Luiten, who was Zenergy’s CEO. Diane D. Dalmy, who acted as counsel for the reverse merger, issued opinion letters that improperly concluded that her and others’ shares were unrestricted and freely tradable. As Zenergy’s stock price increased in conjunction with the promotional activity and other misconduct, Gasich and others sold their shares into the public market for illicit profits.
The SEC also today announced a trading suspension in Zenergy stock.
“This case covers a broad range of parties who were involved in various aspects of a pump-and-dump scheme to make illicit profits at the expense of the investing public,” said Timothy L. Warren, Acting Director of the Chicago Regional Office. “These individuals included a complicit CEO, Gasich’s family and friends, a lawyer who issued improper opinion letters, and promoters who touted the stock without disclosing they had something to gain.”
In complaints filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the SEC charged Zenergy, Gasich, Luiten, Wilding and his company Skyline Capital, and Dalmy, who live in Chicago, Mobile, Ala., Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Denver respectively. The complaints also charged the following other individuals and their entities:
Gasich Family and Friends
- Diana Bozovic – Niece who lives in Evanston, Ill.
- Javorka L. Gasic – Sister who lives in Evanston, Ill.
- Nenad Jovanovich – Former college roommate and close friend who lives in Chicago.
- Kymberly A. Nelson – Formerly engaged to Gasich and shared a residence with him during the scheme.
Promoters and Touters
- Dale J. Baeten of Brillion, Wisc.
- Charles C. Bennett of Gainesville, Ga.
- George E. Bowker III of New Milford, N.J.
- Ronald Martino of Cranston, R.I.
The SEC’s complaints allege that Zenergy, Gasich, Baeten, Bennett, Bozovic, Dalmy, Gasic, Jovanovich, Nelson, Wilding, and entities associated with them violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933. The complaints allege that Baeten, Bennett, Bowker, and Martino violated Section 17(b) of the Securities Act, and Wilding violated an SEC cease-and-desist order previously issued against him. The SEC further alleges that Zenergy violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and that Gasich and Luiten also violated, aided and abetted, or are liable as control persons for Zenergy’s violations of these provisions. The SEC’s complaint names Market Ideas and Vertical Group Holdings as relief defendants.
Agreeing to settle the SEC’s charges are Baeten, Bennett, Bowker, Bozovic, Gasic, Jovanovich, Nelson, and their associated entities. Without admitting or denying the allegations, they agreed to penny stock bars, permanent injunctions from further violations of the charged provisions of the securities laws, and monetary relief.
Gasich agreed to a partial settlement that imposes disgorgement and penalties, a penny stock bar, an officer-and-director bar, and a permanent injunction from further violations of the charged provisions of the securities laws. He neither admits nor denies the allegations. Amounts of disgorgement and prejudgment interest to be paid jointly and severally by Gasich and his company Market Ideas as well as financial penalties are to be determined by the court.
The SEC’s case continues against Zenergy, Dalmy, Luiten, Martino, and Wilding. The SEC is seeking penny stock bars, disgorgement and prejudgment interest, financial penalties, and permanent injunctions, as well as an officer-and-director bar against Luiten.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Kathryn A. Pyszka, Paul M. G. Helms, and Timothy T. Tatman in the Chicago Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Daniel J. Hayes and John E. Birkenheier.