An employee of a Texas securities firm and a broker-dealer who conspired with him and others to artificially pump up the stock prices of several publicly traded companies were sentenced to prison terms today for their roles in the $1 million scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Valerie Parlave.
Blake Williams, 30, of Dallas, and Derek Lopez, 46, of Torrance, Calif., were sentenced to 32 and 24 months in prison, respectively. U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade imposed the sentences today in Dallas federal court. In addition to the prison terms, Williams was ordered to forfeit $125,000; Lopez was ordered to forfeit $72,442; and the pair was sentenced to serve two years of supervised release. Each defendant previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of securities fraud.
Williams was an employee of TBeck Capital Inc., a purported investment banking and securities trading firm in Grapevine, Texas. Lopez was a securities broker-dealer who provided services to TBeck Capital. According to court documents, from June 2006 through December 2008, Williams, Lopez and their co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to manipulate the price and volume of stocks traded in the over-the-counter market.
According to court documents, companies owned and controlled by a co-conspirator obtained control of large positions of free-trading stock in various publicly traded companies. Williams, Lopez and others then coordinated trades with each other and with other alleged co-conspirators to create the false appearance of greater investor interest in the stock. Williams and Lopez admitted to trading stock in their own names as well as through TBeck Capital and other companies to keep the stock price artificially inflated. These actions allowed the defendants and their alleged co-conspirators to then sell that stock at an artificially high price.
Specifically, Lopez admitted to trading in his own name, as well as in the name “Da Big Kahuna” to disguise his trades. Williams admitted to trading in the names of several companies to make it appear there were multiple unrelated entities buying and selling the stock. According to court documents, Williams received cash payments and Lopez received free-trading stock and cash payments in return for their assistance in manipulating the stock prices of companies in which TBeck Capital owned and controlled large positions of free-trading stock.
The gain to all the co-conspirators from the fraudulent scheme exceeded $1 million, according to court documents.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Nicholas Acker and Trial Attorney Luke B. Marsh of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas provided valuable assistance.
This case was prosecuted in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.