SEC Charges Company Officers and Penny Stock Promoters in Kickback and Market Manipulation Schemes
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged several penny stock companies and their officers as well as three penny stock promoters involved in various stock schemes in which bribes and kickbacks were paid to hype microcap stocks and illegally generate stock sales.
These charges are the latest in a series of cases in which the SEC has worked closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to uncover penny stock schemes. Prior charges were filed by the SEC against other penny stock violators in October 2010, December 2010, and June 2011.
According to the SEC's complaints filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, some of these latest schemes involved the payment of undisclosed kickbacks to a pension fund manager in exchange for the fund's purchase of restricted shares of stock in the various microcap companies. Other schemes involved an undisclosed bribe that was to be paid to a stockbroker who agreed to purchase a microcap company's stock in the open market for his customers' discretionary accounts.
"The company officers and promoters in many of these schemes disguised their kickbacks as payments to phony consulting companies that performed no actual work," said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC's Miami Regional Office. "These illegal activities were fully intended to artificially inflate the stock volume and prices of these penny stock companies to the detriment of investors."
The SEC's complaints allege the following penny stock companies and individuals perpetrated the various stock schemes:
- Angel Acquisition Corp. (AGEL) based in Carson City, Nev., and Carlsbad, Calif. (now known as Biogeron Inc.)
- President and CFO Harold Steven Bonenberger of Carlsbad.
- Clean Coal Technologies Inc. (CCTC) based in New York City.
- President and CEO Douglas D. Hague of Boca Raton, Fla.
- Cotton & Western Mining Inc. (CWRN) based in Humble, Texas.
- President and CEO Robert L. Cotton of Houston.
- Delivery Technology Solutions Inc. (DTSL) based in Boca Raton.
- CEO and Chairman Ryan F. Coblin of Boca Raton.
- Optimized Transportation Management Inc. (OPTZ) based in San Antonio
- CEO Kevin P. Brennan of Pittsburgh.
- OPTZ stock promoter Marc S. Page of Tiburon, Calif.
- OPTZ stock promoter Donald G. Huggins of St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Sure Trace Security Corp. (SSTY) based in Philadelphia.
- Chairman and former president Michael M. Cimino of Philadelphia.
- President Joseph J. Repko of Hobe Sound, Fla.
- US Farms Inc. (USFM) based in San Diego and Fallbrook, Calif.
- President and CEO Yan K. Skwara of San Diego.
- Wound Management Technologies Inc. (WNDM) based in Fort Worth, Texas, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- President, CEO, and Chairman Scott Haire of Fort Worth and Coral Springs, Fla.
The SEC additionally charged a stock promoter involved in pumping the stock of KCM Holdings Corp., a penny stock company charged in the SEC's series of penny stock enforcement actions in June 2011. The SEC alleges that Matthew A. Connor, who lives in Amherst, Va., participated in a fraudulent scheme to hype KCM Holding's stock.
The U.S. Attorney's Office today announced criminal charges against the same individuals facing SEC civil charges.
The SEC's complaints allege that these companies, officers, and stock promoters violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC is seeking financial penalties, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and permanent injunctions against all the defendants. The SEC also seeks penny stock bars against each of the officers and promoters as well as officer-and-director bars against Bonenberger, Brennan, Cimino, Hague, Haire, and Skwara.
The SEC's investigation was conducted in the Miami Regional Office by senior counsels Trisha D. Sindler and Michelle I. Bougdanos under the supervision of Assistant Regional Director Chedly C. Dumornay. The SEC's litigation will be led by C. Ian Anderson, Edward D. McCutcheon, and James M. Carlson. The SEC acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida and the FBI's Miami Division in these investigations.