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Release No. 10-055
March 31, 2010
FIVE CHARGED IN INSIDER TRADING RING THAT GENERATED MORE THAN $1.7 MILLION IN ILLEGAL PROFITS
LOS ANGELES -- Special agents with the FBI this morning arrested two of five defendants charged in an insider trading scheme in which the participants secretly used confidential information obtained from two investor relations firms to generate more than $1.7 million in illegal profits.
Ahmad Haris Tajyar, 34, of Encino, was arrested without incident at his residence after being indicted for his role in two separate insider trading conspiracies. The first conspiracy involved trades based on confidential information obtained from an insider at the New York-based investor relations firm Lippert Heilshorn. The second conspiracy involved trades based on confidential information from clients of Haris Tajyar’s own investor relations firm, which was based in San Fernando Valley.
The second person arrested today was Zachary Bryant, 39, of Stamford, Connecticut, who previously worked as an account executive and vice president in the Los Angeles office of Lippert Heilshorn & Associates.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against four defendants yesterday afternoon. The indictment, as well as a criminal information filed against a fifth defendant, outline how the conspirators secretly obtained inside information in advance of upcoming press releases and used that information to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits before the news was announced to the public.
Those charged in the scheme are:
Ahmad Haris Tajyar, the owner and president of the Sherman Oaks-based Investor Relations International, Inc., who allegedly made more than $1 million in illegal profits from his insider trading;
Zachary Bryant, who allegedly provided confidential information to Haris Tajyar;
Omar Tajyar, 30, of Porter Ranch, a cousin of Haris Tajyar who previously worked at Investor Relations International and who allegedly made more than $300,000 in illegal profits from trades based on inside information;
Ahmad Noory, 35, of Ladera Ranch, a former Investor Relations International employee and current operator of a Beverly Hills investor relations firm, Nexus Investor Relations, who alleged earned at least $78,000 in illegal profits through insider trading as part of the conspiracy; and
Vispi Shroff, 57, of Canyon Country, who has admitted receiving more than $165,000 in illegal profits, in part from allowing Haris Tajyar to use his investment account to buy and sell stocks, with the agreement that they would split the profits from those trades.
The indictment alleges that while Bryant worked at Lippert Heilshorn, he secretly disclosed information to Haris Tajyar about upcoming press releases for the firm’s investor relations clients, including information related to press releases for Connetics Corporation; Medivation, Inc.; and Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. Haris Tajyar is accused of illegally profiting from this information by trading in securities of those companies immediately before the announcements were made. The indictment also alleges that Haris Tajyar in turn disclosed the inside information from Bryant about the upcoming press releases to Omar Tajyar, Noory and Shroff, who also traded immediately in advance of the press releases. After the press releases were issued and the market reacted to the news, the conspirators quickly closed out trading positions, reaping huge profits in a short period of time, typically one or two days.
Haris Tajyar is also charged in a second scheme involving confidential information from the clients of his investor relations firm, Investor Relations International. The indictment alleges that as part of this scheme, Haris Tajyar told Shroff about an upcoming press release for one of the firm’s clients, LJ International, a jewelry manufacturer, designer, and retailer based in Hong Kong. Haris Tajyar then used one of Shroff’s investment accounts to buy tens of thousands of shares of LJ International before the press release was issued, and Shroff separately bought shares of LJ International as well. After Haris Tajyar and Investor Relations International issued the press release for LJ International, Haris Tajyar and Shroff sold their shares for a combined profit of over $260,000.
“Everyone involved in the financial industry has fiduciary and ethical duties, but in this case those responsibilities were ignored in favor of profits derived from illegal stock trading,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Prosecuting violations of those duties helps to maintain the integrity of America’s financial system and to ensure that the public is able to maintain a high degree of trust when trading in the financial markets.”
Haris Tajyar is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Bryant made his initial court appearance this morning in United States District Court in Connecticut and agreed to appear in Los Angeles federal court for an arraignment on Monday. Omar Tajyar and Noory are expected to surrender to authorities this afternoon and then make their initial court appearances. Shroff has entered into a plea agreement with the government and has agreed to appear in United States District Court in Los Angeles on April 12.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
Haris Tajyar is charged in the indictment with two counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and 13 counts of securities fraud. Bryant is charged with one count of conspiracy and 13 counts of securities fraud. Omar Tajyar is charged with one count of conspiracy and four counts of securities fraud. Noory is charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud.
The charge of conspiracy to commit securities fraud carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison. Each count of securities fraud carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
If they are convicted of all the charges in the indictment, Haris Tajyar would face a statutory maximum sentence of 270 years in federal prison, Bryant would face a maximum sentence of 265 years in federal prison, Omar Tajyar would face a maximum sentence of 85 years in federal prison, and Noory would face a maximum sentence of 45 years in federal prison.
Shroff has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of securities fraud. Once he pleads guilty, Shroff will face a statutory maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison.
This insider trading case is part of an ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In June 2009, The United States Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against Haris Tajyar, Bryant, Omar Tajyar and Shroff that accuses them of insider trading (see: http://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2009/lr21069.htm).
Release No. 10-055
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