The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a group of 10 individuals and 10 associated entities for their participation in long-running fraudulent schemes that generated over $27 million from unlawful stock sales and caused significant harm to retail investors who were left holding virtually worthless stock.
According to the SEC’s complaint, from 2013 to 2018, a group of prolific South Florida-based microcap fraudsters led by Barry Honig manipulated the share price of the stock of three companies in classic pump-and-dump schemes. Miami biotech billionaire Phillip Frost allegedly participated in two of these three schemes. Honig allegedly orchestrated the acquisition of large quantities of the issuer’s stock at steep discounts, and after securing a substantial ownership interest in the companies, Honig and his associates engaged in illegal promotional activity and manipulative trading to artificially boost each issuer’s stock price and to give the stock the appearance of active trading volume. According to the SEC’s complaint, Honig and his associates then dumped their shares into the inflated market, reaping millions of dollars at the expense of unsuspecting investors.
“As alleged, Honig and his associates engaged in brazen market manipulation that advanced their financial interests while fleecing innocent investors and undermining the integrity of our securities markets,” said Sanjay Wadhwa, Senior Associate Director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “They failed to appreciate, however, the SEC’s resolve to relentlessly pursue and punish participants in microcap fraud schemes.”
The SEC’s complaint, which was filed in federal district court in Manhattan, charges Honig, John Stetson, Michael Brauser, John R. O’Rourke III, Mark Groussman, Frost, Elliot Maza, Robert Ladd, Brian Keller, John H. Ford, Alpha Capital Anstalt, ATG Capital LLC, GRQ Consultants Inc., HS Contrarian Investments LLC, Grander Holdings Inc., Melechdavid Inc., OPKO Health Inc., Frost Gamma Investments Trust, Southern Biotech Inc., and Stetson Capital Investments Inc. with violating antifraud, beneficial ownership disclosure, and registration provisions of the federal securities laws and seeks monetary and equitable relief.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted out of its New York Regional Office by Katherine Bromberg and Charu Chandrasekhar of the Enforcement Division’s Retail Strategy Task Force, Tim Nealon, Ricky Tong, Joseph Darragh, and Michael Paley of the Enforcement Division’s Microcap Fraud Task Force, and Jon Daniels of the Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit, with the assistance of Edward Janowsky and Steven Vitulano of the New York Regional Office Broker-Dealer and Exchange Examination Program. The litigation will be led by Nancy Brown, Ms. Bromberg, and Mr. Daniels, and the case is being supervised by Mr. Wadhwa. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
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