Defendant Pleads Guilty Following Jury Selection to Defrauding Investors of $17 Million in Offering Fraud, Stock Manipulation and Money Laundering Schemes
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Richard Dale Sterritt, Jr., also known as “Richard Richman,” pleaded guilty yesterday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn to a five-count superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud, multiple counts of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A trial in the case had been scheduled to begin yesterday, and Sterritt’s plea took place immediately following jury selection before United States District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto. When sentenced, Sterritt faces up to 75 years in prison.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the guilty plea.
“Investors trusted Sterritt with millions of dollars of their money and he repaid that trust with gimmicks and lies,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “The defendant’s guilty plea at the beginning of his trial is a testament to the hard work and commitment of this Office and our law enforcement partners to holding accountable fraudsters who deceive the investing public.”
Mr. Peace thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Regional Office and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for their invaluable assistance in the investigation.
As alleged in the superseding indictment, between March 2019 and January 2021, Sterritt and his co-conspirators defrauded investors of more than $17 million that they claimed would be used for an oil and gas venture called Zona Energy. Sterritt misappropriated the lion’s share of investor funds, which he spent on personal expenses, including luxury cars, travel and high-end clothing. Sterritt also wired investor money to other businesses he controlled, including a purported cannabis business, and to his friends and girlfriends. Sterritt used the alias “Richard Richman” when interacting with investors to conceal his prior criminal conviction for securities fraud.
Sterritt also engaged in a stock market manipulation fraud in which he conspired with others to manipulate the price and trading volume of publicly traded shares of OrgHarvest, Inc., which traded under the stock ticker “ORGH.” Sterritt, who secretly controlled the majority of ORGH shares through trusts in the name of his girlfriends, family members, and co-conspirators, sought to sell the fraudulently inflated shares to the investing public via a corrupt stock promoter, who was in reality an undercover law enforcement agent. Sterritt executed a series of matched trades with the undercover agent, after which regulators suspended trading in ORGH. Following the suspension of trading, he attempted to manipulate the price and trading volume of the shares of yet another public company—ERF Wireless, Inc., which traded under the stock ticker “ERFB.”
Sterritt is the last defendant to plead guilty in connection with the charges in the superseding indictment. Five of his co-conspirators pleaded guilty in 2022 and 2023, four of whom are currently awaiting sentencing.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorneys David C. Pitluck, Sarah M. Evans, Nick M. Axelrod, Jessica K. Weigel, and John O. Enright are in charge of the prosecution with assistance from Paralegal Specialist William Daniels.
RICHARD DALE STERRITT, JR. (also known as “Richard Richman”)
Co-Conspirators Who Previously Pleaded Guilty:
New York, New York
CHRISTOPHER J. PITTMAN
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-193 (KAM)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office
Updated November 28, 2023