BOISE - Jennifer R. Ransom, 40, of Meridian, Idaho, pleaded guilty today to one count of securities fraud, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Her guilty plea was to Count Five of the pending indictment. The grand jury returned the indictment against Ms. Ransom on November 14, 2014.
According to the plea agreement, Ransom was the Senior Vice President of Administration of Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. (“AEHI”). AEHI was a development stage company headquartered in Eagle, Idaho that planned to construct and operate a nuclear power plant in Payette County, Idaho.
According to the plea agreement, Ransom joined AEHI in late 2007. Prior to joining AEHI, Ransom took and passed the Series 63 examination, one of the tests required to become a licensed Securities Agent, and knew it was wrongful and unlawful to engage in conduct that was designed to defraud or deceive investors by artificially controlling or fraudulently affecting the price of securities. Notwithstanding, she agreed with her co-defendant, Donald L. Gillispie, the former President and CEO of AEHI, and other “nominees” to a scheme to defraud or deceive AEHI investors.
According to the plea agreement, the scheme involved Gillispie and Ransom recruiting nominees to make purchases of AEHI stock on the market for the express purpose of artificially inflating the market price of AEHI stock. Ransom personally helped recruit one of the nominees. Without investors’ knowledge, Gillispie and Ransom provided AEHI funds, obtained almost exclusively from investors, to two of the nominees to fund their market purchases of AEHI stock.
According to the plea agreement, investors who purchased AEHI stock directly from AEHI, through Private Placement Memoranda (PPM), were offered a price discounted from the market price that nominees were attempting to inflate. However, PPM investors could only purchase restricted AEHI stock, which they could not sell for six months to one year. On September 9, 2009 through September 11, 2009, Ransom assisted a nominee in making purchases of AEHI stock on the market. The purpose of these purchases was to artificially increase the market price of AEHI stock, which was trading above the PPM price. During the next two months, private investors bought approximately $516,885 worth of AEHI restricted stock at the lower PPM price.
According to the plea agreement, Ransom received shares of AEHI stock as executive compensation. From June of 2010, through September of 2010, a period during which attempts were being made to artificially inflate the market price of AEHI stock, Ransom sold approximately 1,000,000 of her shares and received approximately $675,326 in return, of which approximately $580,780 was the proceeds of securities fraud.
As part of the plea agreement, Ransom agreed to forfeit $580,780, the proceeds of the securities fraud offense she pleaded guilty to, and to pay restitution.
The charge of securities fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.
Sentencing is set for July 27, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Boise.
"This defendant personally gained by deceiving investors,” said Olson. “Her guilty plea both acknowledges the wrongfulness of her conduct and sends the clear message to others that the U.S. Department of Justice and its investigating partners will take strong actions to identify and prosecute those who manipulate securities markets for personal gain.”
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.