SEC Charges N.Y.-Based Penny Stock Promoter With Fraud
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 2011 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged an upstate New York-based penny stock promoter and his affiliated website with fraud for failing to disclose that he was paid by certain issuers to promote their stock while simultaneously liquidating millions of his own shares for profits of at least $2.95 million.
The SEC alleges that Christopher Wheeler of Victor, N.Y., received compensation at various times in 2007 and 2008 to promote several thinly-traded penny stocks on his website, OTCStockExchange.com. Wheeler's website claimed to "have compiled a long list of successful stock picks" and to afford investors the opportunity to "make a fortune."
The SEC alleges that after receiving millions of shares in undisclosed compensation from the issuers, Wheeler featured the issuers' stock on OTCStockExchange.com, recommended that investors purchase the securities, and posted lofty price predictions for the stock without any reasonable basis for those projections. Wheeler's and OTCStockExchange.com's promotional efforts often resulted in dramatic, but temporary, increases in the volume of shares traded and the price of the issuers' securities. Once the prices were pumped in this manner, Wheeler simultaneously dumped shares from his personal brokerage account onto the market.
"Wheeler and OTCStockExchange.com concealed from investors that Wheeler was paid to hype the very stocks that he was unloading from his own account," said George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC's New York Regional Office. "The securities laws require stock promoters to disclose their compensation so that investors can make informed decisions about the credibility of the information they are being provided."
According to the SEC's complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Wheeler profited from his undisclosed sales of the securities of Infinity Medical Group, Inc., Solei Systems, Inc., Cannon Exploration Inc., and China Jiangsu Golden Horse Steel Ball Inc. (which now operates as Santana Mining, Inc.). Wheeler caused at least $450,000 of the fraudulent proceeds that he received to be transferred to North Coast Advisors, LLC, an entity that Wheeler controls. North Coast Advisors LLC has been named as a relief defendant in the SEC's complaint.
The SEC's complaint seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining Wheeler and OTCStockExchange.com from future violations of the federal securities laws, and an order permanently barring Wheeler from participating in any offering of penny stock, requiring the defendants to pay financial penalties, and requiring the defendants and North Coast to disgorge all ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest.
The SEC's case was investigated by Ken C. Joseph and Christopher M. Castano. The SEC's litigation effort will be led by Preethi Krishnamurthy.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
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For more information about this enforcement action, contact:
Associate Director, SEC's New York Regional Office
Ken C. Joseph
Assistant Director, SEC's New York Regional Office