U.S. Promoter of Foreign Cryptocurrency Companies Sentenced to 60 Months in Prison for His Role in Multi-Million Dollar Securities Fraud Scheme
BROOKLYN, NY – Gerald Cocuzzo, a registered broker, was sentenced earlier today to 18 months in prison after having pleaded guilty to securities fraud for his role in the fraudulent market manipulation of ForceField Energy Inc. (ForceField), a publicly traded company previously listed on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “FNRG.”
The sentencing was announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting 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.
According to court filings and facts presented at the plea hearing, between 2009 and 2015, Cocuzzo and 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 misleading appearance of genuine trading volume and interest in the stock; and (3) concealing secret payments to stock promoters and broker dealers who promoted and sold ForceField stock to investors and potential investors while falsely claiming to be independent of the company. The fraudulent scheme caused a loss of approximately $131 million to the investing public.
Between January 2015 and April 2015, Cocuzzo received secret cash kickbacks from a ForceField executive in exchange for purchasing ForceField stock in his clients’ brokerage accounts. Cocuzzo did not disclose these payments to his clients. 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 during in-person meetings.
Today’s proceeding, which took place before United States District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan, is the third sentencing to take place in connection with the fraud in ForceField securities. Five other defendants in this matter who pleaded guilty, and one defendant convicted after trial, are awaiting sentencing.
The government’s case is being handled 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.
Residence: Delray Beach, Florida
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-234 (BMC)
United States Attorney’s Office