SEC Charges San Diego-Based Promoter in Penny Stock Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a penny stock promoter in the San Diego area for fraudulently arranging the purchase of $2.5 million worth of shares in a penny stock company in an attempt to generate the false appearance of market interest and induce other investors to purchase the stock.
The SEC alleges that David F. Bahr of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., artificially increased the trading price and volume of iTrackr Systems stock when he conspired with a purported businessman with access to a network of corrupt brokers. What Bahr didn’t know was that the purported businessman was actually an undercover FBI agent. During a test run of their arrangement, Bahr paid a $3,000 kickback in exchange for the initial purchase of $14,000 worth of iTrackr shares.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California today filed criminal charges against Bahr.
“Bahr tried to artificially inflate the price and volume of iTrackr shares to the detriment of retail investors who wouldn’t have known the real story behind the flurry of market activity,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Office. “Working with criminal authorities, we were able to stop Bahr’s misconduct before he could seriously impact the markets and harm investors.”
The SEC also has issued an order to suspend trading in iTrackr securities.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in San Diego, Bahr set out to give the markets a false impression of supply and demand in iTrackr stock where none actually existed. He coordinated the purchase of iTrackr shares so the stock price could remain high enough for him to effectively promote it at a later date and artificially inflate the price even higher. Bahr arranged for the dissemination of promotional material that overstated the likelihood of iTrackr’s success and future profits.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Bahr connected with the undercover agent in November 2012 and was told that that he represented a group of registered representatives who had trading discretion over certain client accounts. In exchange for a 30 percent kickback, the brokers could arrange to purchase iTrackr stock through their customers’ accounts and hold the shares for up to a year in order to avoid sales that might decrease iTrackr’s stock price. Bahr agreed to pay the kickback and sought the purchase of 10 million iTrackr shares at an average of 25 cents per share for a total of $2.5 million. Bahr agreed not to disclose the kickback to any iTrackr investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Bahr agreed to a test run involving the purchase of modest amounts of iTrackr stock on the open market, and Bahr would then pay a small commission. During the first week of December 2012, a total of 135,000 iTrackr shares were purchased, which represented approximately 32 percent of iTrackr’s trading volume during that time.
Bahr was then informed that the test purchases totaled approximately $14,000, and he owed a $4,000 commission. Bahr paid $3,000 through a wire transfer, and he asked another person to pay the remaining $1,000.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Bahr violated Section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The complaint seeks financial penalties, a penny stock bar, and a permanent injunction against Bahr.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Marc Blau and Sara Kalin of the Los Angeles Regional Office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).