A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Garrett O’Rourke, also known as “Jonathan Banks,” with engaging in a fraudulent scheme to artificially control the price and volume of AVI Group Inc., a publicly-traded company listed under the OTC ticker symbol “AVOP,” by making false and misleading statements to investors. AVOP purported to be a holding company focusing on acquisitions and joint ventures, including the development of dental equipment, a “vape superstore” and lighting technology. O’Rourke was arrested yesterday at John F. Kennedy International Airport, made his initial appearance this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold and was released on a $1 million bond.
Richard P. Donoghue, 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), announced the charges.
According to court filings, between April 2016 and June 2017, O’Rourke engaged in a securities fraud conspiracy to mislead investors into purchasing shares of AVOP by claiming, among other things, that he and his co-conspirators worked for Marketwise Report, a purported investment advising firm located in Florida that offered stock advice to clients. In reality, O’Rourke and his co-conspirators did not work for this fictitious entity and instead worked in call rooms based in Florida and Medellin, Colombia. O’Rourke and his co-conspirators made misrepresentations and false statements to induce investors to purchase and retain AVOP stock in order to profit for themselves. By persuading numerous investors to purchase AVOP stock, O’Rourke and his co-conspirators were able to “pump” AVOP’s stock price. Then, once the stock price had artificially increased, a co-conspirator “dumped” over $2 million in shares at the artificially inflated prices and shared the profits from the sale with O’Rourke and other co-conspirators.
“As alleged in the complaint, O’Rourke supervised a call room in Florida where he and his co-conspirator fraudsters fleeced investors by spinning false claims about a publicly traded stock in a classic pump and dump scheme designed to line their own pockets,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The defendant’s arrest demonstrates this Office’s commitment to protecting the investing public and vigorously prosecuting those who undermine the integrity of the financial markets.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the Securities and Exchange Commission, both the New York and Boston Regional Offices, for their assistance with the investigation.
“It’s important for investors to know these pump-and-dump schemes still exist,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “While O’Rourke faces charges for the crimes he allegedly committed, there are others out there who seek to take advantage of people who unwittingly invest more than their hard-earned money on lies they’re sold. We urge the general public to exercise due diligence with any investment they plan to make, and to look out for friends and family who might be easily swindled by crooks who are up to no good.”
The charges in the complaint are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business & Securities Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorney Hiral D. Mehta is in charge of the prosecution.
GARRETT O’ROURKE (also known as “Jonathan Banks”)
Miami Beach, Florida
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-MJ-644
United States Attorney’s Office