U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
LITIGATION RELEASE NO. 19305 / July 18, 2005
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Joshua Yafa, Michael O. Pickens, et al.,
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Civil Action No. 05 CV 6480 (LAK)
SEC CHARGES STOCK PROMOTERS IN PHONY FAX SCAM
The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced charges against two stock promoters in a scam designed to mislead investors into believing they had inadvertently received a confidential stock tip faxed from a stockbroker to his client. The handwritten fax had the appearance of an urgent message from a financial planner intended only for his client, "Dr. Mitchel," urging the purchase of a stock that was about to triple in price. In fact, neither the financial planner nor "Dr. Mitchel" exists. The fax was sent to more than one million recipients across the country by stock promoters who made over half a million dollars unloading their shares on duped investors.
The Commission's complaint alleges that Joshua Yafa, 31, of Coral Gables, Florida, drafted a fax in which a fictitious financial planner urged "Dr. Mitchel" to buy shares of AVL Global, Inc. (ticker: AVLL), a company which had hired Yafa as a public relations consultant and paid him in stock. Yafa sent the supposedly misdirected "Dr. Mitchel" fax to more than 150,000 fax machines across the United States the evening of December 15, 2004. The complaint alleges that AVLL's stock price soared as soon as the market opened, after which Yafa sold his shares of AVLL, reaping more than $300,000 in proceeds.
The Commission also charged Nocona, Texas resident Michael O'Brien Pickens, 51, with hatching a copycat scheme. According to the Commission's complaint, Pickens obtained a copy of Yafa's "Dr. Mitchel" fax and had the AVLL ticker symbol replaced with the symbols of three different microcap companies Pickens had been promoting - Data Evolution Holdings, Inc. (ticker: DTEV), Infinium Labs, Inc. (ticker: IFLB), and Soleil Film, Inc. (ticker: SFLM). The Commission alleges that Pickens sent out nearly a million of the modified "Dr. Mitchel" faxes in December 2004. The share price of the three stocks climbed by as much as 100% on massive volume, and Pickens made over $300,000 selling stock in the companies.
The Commission also brought fraud charges against Serafin Sierra, 45, a salesman at Miami-based Vision Lab Telecommunications, Inc., the "fax blasting" company that transmitted both sets of "Dr. Mitchel" faxes. According to the Commission's complaint, Sierra learned of Yafa's scam, and forwarded a copy of the original AVLL "Dr. Mitchel" fax to his customer Pickens, facilitating Pickens' copycat scheme.
The Commission's complaint charges Yafa, Pickens, and their affiliated companies, Global Media Marking, Inc., M3, Inc., and M3 Research LLC, with violating Section 17(a) and 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint also charges Sierra with aiding and abetting Pickens's violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.
In addition to the Commission's civil action, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York has announced the initiation of a related criminal action.
The Commission's investigation is continuing.
SEC Complaint in this matter