Stock Promoters Indicted for Conspiracy in Stock Manipulation Scheme
WASHINGTON – Three stock promoters have been indicted for their roles in a stock manipulation scheme that defrauded investors, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Timothy Barham Jr., 43, of Henderson, Tenn.; Nathan Montgomery, 30, of Henderson, Nev.; and Ryan Reynolds, 39, of Dallas, were each charged in a superseding indictment filed on April 28, 2011, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. On April 29, 2011, Barham was arrested in Henderson, Tenn., and Montgomery was arrested in Las Vegas. Reynolds, who was in custody on previously filed civil charges, made his initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Dallas.
The superseding indictment charges Barham, Montgomery and Reynolds each with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud. The superseding indictment also charges six individuals who were originally indicted in February 2010 for their roles in the fraud scheme: Jonathan Randall Curshen, 46, of Sarasota, Fla.; Michael Simon Krome, 49, Long Island, N.Y.; Ronald Salazar Morales, aka “Ronny Salazar,” 39, of Costa Rica; Robert Lloyd Weidenbaum, 44, of Miami; and Eric Ariav Weinbaum, 37, and Izhack Zigdon, 47, both of Israel.
According to the superseding indictment, Curshen was the principal behind Red Sea Management and Sentry Global Securities, two companies located in San Jose, Costa Rica, that provided offshore accounts and facilitated trading in penny stocks. The superseding indictment alleges that Weinbaum and Zigdon took control of the outstanding shares of a company called CO2 Tech (ticker CTTD), which traded in the over-the-counter market through listings on Pink Sheets, an inter-dealer electronic quotation and trading system. Weinbaum and Zigdon allegedly obtained the shares by retaining Krome, a securities attorney. Krome allegedly evaded federal securities registration requirements in order to provide co-conspirators with millions of unregistered and “free-trading” shares of CO2 Tech that the co-conspirators could not have otherwise legally obtained.
The superseding indictment alleges that the shares were subsequently sold to the general investing public by Weinbaum, Zigdon, Curshen and Salazar, a Sentry Global stock trader, through Sentry Global’s stock trading floor. According to court documents, the defendants concealed from the investing public the actual financial condition and business operations of CO2 Tech by evading the registration requirements. The superseding indictment also alleges that Weidenbaum, Reynolds, Montgomery and Barham coordinated trades by purchasing shares of CO2 Tech on the open market from Curshen, Weinbaum, and Salazar. Weidenbaum was allegedly paid approximately $1 million by Weinbaum and Zigdon to participate in sham stock trades of CO2 Tech to make it appear that there were genuine investors in the market that were buying the shares.
As alleged in the superseding indictment, coordinated trades were often made between the co-conspirators in conjunction with the issuance of false and misleading press releases that were designed to make CO2 Tech appear that it had significant business prospects. According to these press releases, CO2 Tech purported to have a business relationship with Boeing to reduce polluting gases emitted from airplanes. The superseding indictment alleges that these relationships never existed.
After fraudulently “pumping” the market price and demand for CO2 Tech stock through these press releases and coordinated trades, Weinbaum, Curshen, Salazar, Reynolds, Montgomery and Barham allegedly “dumped” shares by selling them for large profits to the general investing public in the over-the-counter market through listings on Pink Sheets. These shares were allegedly purchased by unsuspecting investors, including in the Southern District of Florida, and were often rendered virtually worthless.
The superseding indictment further alleges that Curshen and Salazar engaged in a conspiracy to commit money laundering. Curshen, through Red Sea and Sentry Global, allegedly established domestic and offshore bank accounts through which the proceeds of stock manipulation schemes flowed. The superseding indictment alleges that Curshen and Salazar used these accounts to conceal the origin and ownership of the ill-gotten gains from these schemes.
The defendants are all charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities, mail and wire fraud. Additionally, as in the original indictment, the superseding indictment charges Krome with one count of securities registration violation, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of wire fraud. Weinbaum and Zigdon also continue to be charged with three counts of wire fraud. In addition, Curshen and Salazar each are charged with two counts of mail fraud, and Weidenbaum and Weinbaum each are charged with one count of mail fraud. The superseding indictment also charges Curshen and Salazar with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The superseding indictment seeks forfeiture in the amount of $7 million.
The fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of wire fraud and mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The securities registration violation carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine and the obstruction count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Curshen, Krome, Salazar, Weinbaum, Zigdon and Weidenbaum were also charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2010 in a related civil matter.
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the USPIS. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys N. Nathan Dimock and Rina Tucker Harris of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida provided significant assistance in this case. The Department of Justice acknowledges the significant assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the SEC in its investigation. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Costa Rican authorities also provided assistance.
Today’s charges are part of efforts underway by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency task force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.