Jury Convicts Former CEO of Publicly Traded Company of Securities and Mail Fraud
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that a federal jury convicted Richard Altomare, 65, of Palm Beach County, on all four counts of the indictment, including one count of mail fraud and three counts of securities fraud. Altomare was the former CEO of Universal Express, Inc.
According to the indictment and evidence presented during the trial, Altomare carried out a scheme to artificially inflate the share price and trading volume of stock for a publicly traded company then known as Sunset Brands, Inc. (SSBN). Altomare agreed to pay a former business associate to purchase shares of SSBN stock to give the investing public the false impression that SSBN's stock was rising and that there was a public market for SSBN stock. Unbeknownst to Altomare, his former associate was an informant for the FBI. During recorded conversations and meetings, Altomare promised to compensate the informant with SSBN stock to induce his cooperation in the scheme. Altomare agreed to bolster the fraudulent buying program by agreeing to cause SSBN to issue one or more press releases announcing positive news about the company, which would be timed to follow and coincide with the illegally induced purchasing by the informant. The purpose of the press releases was to give the investing public the false impression that the purchase of SSBN stock was induced by positive news about the company and to conceal the market manipulation scheme from regulatory authorities.
Sentencing has been scheduled for May 6, 2014 at 1:15 p.m. before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Ft. Lauderdale. At sentencing, the defendant faces up to twenty years in prison for each count of mail fraud and securities fraud.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alejandro O. Soto and Kevin J. Larsen.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.