Fourteen people were arrested Wednesday for their roles in an alleged Long Island-based stock manipulation scheme that targeted mostly elderly investors who were conned out of $147 million, federal authorities said.
The suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and securities fraud. They were arraigned at federal courts in Brooklyn, California and Florida.
“The defendants designed an elaborate, fraudulent scheme, to defraud the investing public, preying, in particular, upon unsuspecting and elderly investors,” said Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Prosecutors said the suspects obtained shares from corporate insiders at below-market prices, then artificially drove up the stock prices while aggressively contacting victims, who were misled into believing purchasing the shares were sound investments from 2014 through this month. The suspects, who operated what investigators termed a boiler room, then sold their own shares in the company, a scam commonly known as a pump and dump.
The stocks of five publicly traded companies were manipulated in the scheme, authorities said. They include National Waste Management Holdings, CES Synergies, Grilled Cheese Truck, Hydrocarb Energy Corporation and Intelligent Content Enterprises.
The locally based suspects were identified as 44-year-old Erik Matz of Mt. Sinai, 42-year-old Ronald Hardy of Port Jefferson, 36-year-old Brian Heepke of Farmingdale, 67-year-old Dennis Verderosa of Coram, 33-year-old Emin Cohen of Coram, 54-year-old Anthony Vassallo of Farmingdale, 36-year-old Paul Ewer of Massapequa, 34-year-old Mcarthur Jean of Dix Hills, 51-year-old Robert Gilbert of Cold Spring Harbor and Sergio Ramirez, 44, of East Meadow.
Matz and Hardy, who authorities said managed the boiler rooms, were detained. They rest were released on bail.