Three Israeli men have been charged with allegedly operating a pump-and-dump scheme in the U.S. and around the world that inflated some penny stocks by as much as 1,800 percent, two enforcement agencies announced Tuesday.
The three have been charged with making at least $2.8 million through the scheme by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has filed civil charges against the men, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which has filed criminal charges.
Gery Shalon, Joshua Samuel Aaron and Ziv Orenstein used deceptive and misleading e-mail campaigns to entice investors and manipulative, prearranged stock trading to carry out the plan, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, adding that it will seek their extradition from Israel to stand trial in the U.S. Shalon and Orenstein have been arrested. Aaron remains at large.
They carried out the scheme by obtaining shares in several penny stock companies, inflating the prices and then selling the shares at a profit, authorities said. In one extravagantly positive promotional e-mail about a particular stock, they stated that a $5,000 investment could be worth more than $250,000 in two years, the SEC said.
“The defendants manipulated trading in U.S. securities from overseas, using fake identities to funnel millions of dollars in unlawful proceeds through a web of international shell companies. Using false and misleading spam e-mails sent to millions of people, these defendants allegedly directed their pump-and-dump scheme from their computers halfway around the world,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Aaron acted as the scheme’s front man, using various identities, including Mike Shields. Orenstein supported the identities with false passports and other personal papers, the Bharara said.
The three are charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and other criminal charges in an indictment filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The SEC is seeking to bar the three from the penny stock business and recoup their ill-gotten gains, the SEC said.