Florida Registered Broker Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud For Participating In A $131 Million Market Manipulation Scheme
Defendant Profited By Selling To Investors Worthless Stock Of A Company That Purported To Be A Worldwide Distributor And Provider Of LED Lighting Products And Solutions
BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, Gerald Cocuzzo, a resident of Boca Raton, Florida and a broker registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA), pleaded guilty to securities fraud in connection with the fraudulent market manipulation of ForceField Energy Inc. (ForceField), a publicly-traded company listed on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “FNRG.” The guilty plea was entered before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr. at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York. When sentenced, Cocuzzo faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution, criminal forfeiture, and a fine.
The guilty plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
According to court filings and facts presented at the plea hearings, between January 2009 and April 2015, the defendant, together with others, engaged in a scheme to defraud investors in ForceField, a purported worldwide distributor and provider of LED lighting products and solutions, by artificially controlling the price and volume of traded shares of ForceField through, among other means: (1) using nominees to purchase and sell ForceField stock without disclosing this information to investors and potential investors; (2) orchestrating the trading of ForceField stock to create the appearance of genuine trading volume and interest in the stock; and (3) concealing payments to stock promoters and broker dealers who promoted and sold ForceField stock to investors and potential investors while claiming to be independent of the company. The defendants’ fraudulent scheme caused a loss of approximately $131 million to the investing public.
Between January 2015 and April 2015, a ForceField executive paid commission payments, or kickbacks, to Cocuzzo in exchange for his purchase of ForceField stock in his clients’ brokerage accounts. Cocuzzo did not disclose to his clients the kickbacks he was receiving for purchasing ForceField stock. Cocuzzo and his co-conspirators took pains to conceal their participation in the fraudulent scheme by using prepaid, disposable cellular telephones and encrypted, content-expiring messaging applications to communicate with each other, and by paying kickbacks in cash.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Mark E. Bini and Lauren H. Elbert are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit ww.StopFraud.gov.
Residence: Delray Beach, Florida
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-234 (BMC)