The Bermuda-based firm has been defunct for more than three years, but the woes surrounding Gerova Financial Group continue.
On Thursday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged six men, including a notorious white collar criminal and his three sons, with defrauding investors by manipulating the company’s stock in a pump-and-dump scheme that netted them at least $20 million in illicit profits.
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, the SEC charged the six men with defrauding investors. Among them are John Galanis and his three sons Jason, Derek and Jared Galanis. Also charged are Gerova president and chairman Gary T. Hirst and investment advisor Gavin Hamels. Hamels is currently employed as a portfolio manager and investment advisor at Your Source Financial; he formerly served at Martin Kelly Capital Management in San Diego.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, unsealed an indictment charging the six men as well as Ymer Shahini, a resident of Kosovo, with multiple criminal counts including securities fraud, wire fraud, investment advisor fraud and related conspiracy charges.
The SEC is seeking payment of disgorgement fees, interest and undisclosed civil penalties.
The SEC alleges that Jason Galanis and Hirst orchestrated a scheme to secretly issue 5.3 million unrestricted Gerova shares worth $72 million to Shahini, a Galanis family friend in Kosovo.
According to the complaint, Jason Galanis, his father and his brothers Derek and Jared then directed sales of the shares from Shahini’s brokerage accounts at a price nearly double the value of the company’s publicly traded shares.
Later, when share prices dropped more than 50 percent, Jason Galanis is alleged to have bribed Hamels to purchase Gerova stock to boost its value as the shares were liquidated.
The SEC claims that Hamels bought shares for advisory clients. Galanis set up sell orders and coordinated with Hamels to set up buy orders simultaneously. Many of the purchases were coordinated in matched trades with the Kosovo friend’s sales. Hamels allegedly failed to inform his clients of the bribe from Galanis.
Proceeds were allegedly wired to Jason Galanis and his associates, who realized approximately $20 million in illicit profits. Gerova shares bottomed out at $0 in November 2011, resulting in massive losses, according to the criminal complaint, with one investor losing approximately $11 million.