LITIGATION RELEASE NO. 17732 / September 17, 2002

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION v. MARK E. RICE D/B/A PRIMEX CAPITAL, et al., Civil Action No. H:02CV00636 (USDC S.D. Texas, September 11, 2002)

The Commission announced today that on September 11, 2002, the Honorable Vanessa Gilmore, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Texas located in Houston, entered a final judgment by default against Mark E. Rice of Sugar Land, Texas who did business under the name Primex Capital. The Court ordered Rice to repay his illegal trading profits totaling $900,367 which he obtained through his manipulation of the securities of four micro-cap companies, and prejudgment interest on those amounts of $184,755.20. Rice is jointly and severally liable with two companies for a portion of the $900,367 and interest. The Court also ordered Rice to pay civil penalties of $440,000, which consists of four $110,000 penalties, one for each of the four companies whose stock he manipulated.

The Commission alleged in its complaint filed on February 25, 2002 that between September 1999 and July 2000, Rice carried out "pump and dump" schemes to manipulate the stock of four micro-cap companies:, Inc., which later changed its name to Status Wines of Tuscany, Inc. (Portalzone); Rockport Healthcare Group, Inc.; Global Connections, Inc.; and Pinnacle Business Management, Inc. The complaint alleged that Rice had issued unsolicited fraudulent "spam" e-mail messages, press releases and other promotional materials about the four companies and then engaged in manipulative trading in the stock of those companies when the price of the stocks increased because of the false statements. According to the Commission's complaint, Rice, and Portalzone in various press releases issued by the company, made false statements about the development of Portalzone's product purportedly an advanced Internet search engine, the company's revenue sources and business relationships with third parties, as well as Rice's stock-picking track record and trading intentions. The Commission's complaint alleged that Rice used two companies, relief defendants Primex (USA), Inc. (Primex), a Nevada corporation, and Applegate Sentry, S.A. (Applegate) a Bahamian corporation, to hide his sales of unregistered stock of three of the four companies into the market inflated by his false statements. Together, Rice and the two companies obtained illegal profits of $900,367.

Previously on March 5, 2002, the Court permanently enjoined Rice, based on his consent, from future violations of the securities registration provisions of Sections 5(a), and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act), the anti-fraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and the anti-manipulation provisions of Regulation M, Rule 101. On August 20, 2002, the Court also permanently enjoined Portalzone, which is now known as Status Wines of Tuscany, from violating the anti-fraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5. On June 26, 2002, the Court ordered relief defendants Primex and Applegate Sentry to disgorge their illegal trading profits of $759,174 and $51,665 respectively plus prejudgment interest on those amounts. Rice is jointly and severally liable with Primex and Applegate Sentry to repay the amounts of profits and prejudgment interest assessed against the two companies. For additional information see Litigation Releases 17377 ( February 25, 2002) and 17414 (March 14, 2002).