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Press Release

Corporate Insider Sentenced to 60 Months in Prison for Conspiring With Long Island Boiler Room to Pump and Dump Stock on Elderly Investors

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Illegal Stock Promotion and Manipulation Scheme Cost Victims Millions of Dollars

Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Michael Watts, a former registered broker who participated in a criminal conspiracy to promote and manipulate the price of shares in Hydrocarb Energy Corp. and other companies, was sentenced by United States District Judge Joanna Seybert to 60 months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy and money laundering.  At an earlier proceeding, the Court ordered Watts to pay more than $560,000 in forfeiture and $4,430,354.03 in restitution.  Watts was convicted by a federal jury in October 2019 following a three-week trial.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the sentence.

“Michael Watts and his co-conspirators lined their pockets with the lifetime savings of hard-working folks across the country with ruinous results,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “Today’s sentence holds Watts accountable for the economic harm he intentionally inflicted on the victims, many of them senior citizens living on a fixed income, and should serve as a warning to others like him that there will be consequences for crimes of greed.” 

Mr. Peace thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, for its hard work and dedication in leading the investigation and expressed his appreciation to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., Criminal Prosecution Assistance Group (FINRA CPAG), for their cooperation and assistance.

From 2014 to 2016, Watts and others working with a Melville, New York-based boiler room artificially inflated the price and trading volume of Hydrocarb stock.  They did so through an illegal cold call campaign that used lies and high-pressure sales tactics to lure victims, including the elderly and the vulnerable, into purchasing stock.  Watts, who was one of the largest shareholders in Hydrocarb and therefore knew that the business was in a downward spiral, also used the boiler room to dump more than $2 million of Hydrocarb shares that he owned or controlled on unsuspecting investors in the months leading to the company’s April 2016 bankruptcy.  The conspiracy’s market manipulation fraudulently inflated the stock price of Hydrocarb and four other companies by more than $147 million. 

All 16 defendants charged in this case have been convicted.  Among those who have been sentenced, Jeffrey Chartier, Ronald Hardy and Brian Heepke each received 10 years’ imprisonment; Dennis Verderosa received six years; Lawrence Isen received five years; McArthur Jean received four years; Paul Ewer received three years; and Emin Cohen received two years.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Whitman G.S. Knapp and Kaitlin T. Farrell with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Peyton Jefferson.  Assistant United States Attorney Tanisha Payne of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters in the case. 

The Defendant:

Age: 68
Sugarland, Texas

Docket No. 17-CR-372 (JS)



John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass                            
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated March 8, 2024

Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud