SEC Brings Additional Charges in New York Boiler Room Scheme Targeting Seniors
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington D.C., Nov. 15, 2018 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today brought additional charges against a Long Island, New York-based boiler room previously sued for defrauding elderly and unsophisticated investors. The latest charges allege that First Choice Healthcare Solutions Inc. CEO Christian Romandetti, the boiler room, and four others, manipulated the company’s shares generating more than $3.3 million of illegal profits and more than $560,000 in kickbacks for Romandetti.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Romandetti and the other defendants duped more than 100 victims in a scheme that inflated First Choice’s stock price from less than $1 per share to $3.40 per share. According to the complaint, from at least September 2013 until about June 2016, the defendants used multiple accounts in an attempt to disguise their trading, engaged in manipulative trading practices, and hired Elite Stock Research, a boiler room run by defendant Anthony Vassallo, to promote First Choice to vulnerable investors, some of who invested retirement savings.
“Microcap fraud continues to be a pervasive source of harm to retail investors,” said Carolyn M. Welshhans, Associate Director of the Division of Enforcement. “Investors should be on the lookout for individuals employing methods like the ones we allege in our complaint—such as using unsolicited calls and high-pressure sales tactics.”
In a related action in July 2017, the SEC originally charged boiler room Elite Stock Research, as well as another Long Island boiler room and 13 individuals, with bilking victims out of more than $10 million through high-pressure sales tactics and lies about penny stocks. Seven of those individuals have pleaded guilty to parallel criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The SEC’s litigation against the 13 individuals is continuing.
Today’s SEC action, filed in federal district court in Central Islip, New York, charges Romandetti, Vassallo, Mark Burnett, Jeffrey Miller, Frank Sarro and Elite Stock Research with fraud and Burnett, Miller, Sarro, and Vassallo with market manipulation. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains with interest, civil penalties, penny stock bars, and officer-and-director bars against Romandetti and Burnett.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced parallel criminal charges against Romandetti, Burnett, Miller, and Sarro.
The SEC encourages investors to check the backgrounds of people selling them investments by using the SEC’s Investor.gov website to quickly identify whether they are registered professionals.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Cecilia B. Connor and Andrew Elliott and supervised by Ms. Welshhans and Amy L. Friedman, with assistance from Leigh Barrett. The SEC’s litigation will be handled by James Smith and Matthew Scarlato and supervised by Jan Folena. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.