Founder of Swiss Asset Management Firm Sentenced for Global Securities Fraud Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Scheme defrauded approximately 20,000 victims of tens of millions of dollars
BOSTON – The founder and operator of a Swiss asset management firm was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for his role in a massive global securities fraud scheme that generated over $150 million in illicit proceeds.
Roger Knox, 53, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to 36 months in prison. Knox was also ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $10,909,709 and restitution in an amount that will be determined at a later date. In January 2020, Knox pleaded guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
“Illegal pump-and-dump schemes cause financial hardship on countless innocent investors and erode the integrity of our capital markets. For at least six years, Mr. Knox helped implement a staggering securities fraud scheme that generated over $150 million in illicit profits, $5 million of which ended up in Mr. Knox’s own pocket,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “With our federal partners, including the FBI and the SEC, our office is committed to identifying fraudsters like Mr. Knox and holding them accountable.”
“Roger Knox was a critical participant in a massive global securities fraud scheme that generated more than $150 million in illegal proceeds. While today’s sentence cannot make up for the significant financial and emotional harm he and others inflicted upon their unwitting victims, it does send a message to those who may be looking to profit from similar schemes—think twice because the penalties you’ll face are steep,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Market manipulators should know that the FBI has a proven track record of rooting out fraudsters who illegally tilt the playing field against honest investors and undermine confidence in our markets.”
Knox, with others, operated an asset management firm based in Switzerland called Silverton, and later renamed Wintercap. Through this business, Knox helped facilitate pump-and-dump schemes by selling massive quantities of microcap securities on behalf of undisclosed control groups who secretly owned the stock through nominee entities formally owned by third parties. The shares were generally held by the nominees in blocks of less than 5% of the issuer’s total outstanding shares in order to evade the disclosure obligations and sale limitations in the federal securities laws. To generate investor demand for the shares, the undisclosed control groups simultaneously orchestrated promotional campaigns to artificially inflate the price and trading volume of the shares. Knox then funneled the proceeds of the pump-and-dumps—totaling over $137 million between just 2016 and 2018—to co-conspirators in the United States and around the world through a complex money transfer system that disguised the source and nature of the funds.
Examples of the securities that traded through Knox’s firm as part of pump-and-dumps included: Environmental Packaging Technologies, Inc. (EPTI), which Knox traded for a control group involving Morrie Tobin, Milan Patel and Matthew Ledvina and resulted in approximately $1.5 million in illicit proceeds; Garmatex Holdings, Ltd. (GRMX) and OneLife Technologies Corp. (OLMM), which Knox traded for a control group allegedly involving Luis Carrillo and resulted in approximately $5 million in illicit proceeds each; and Vitality Biopharma, Inc. (VBIO) (formerly known as Stevia First Corp.), which Knox traded for a control group allegedly involving Mike Veldhuis and generated over $17 million in illicit proceeds.
The United States has already collected and is forfeiting approximately $9 million of the forfeiture amount due from Knox, as well as numerous securities, from bank and brokerage accounts located in United States, Canada, Malta, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Today, the District Court also ordered forfeiture of several bank accounts located in Switzerland.
Tobin, Patel and Ledvina each previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the EPTI pump-and-dump. In June 2020, Ledvina was sentenced to 30 months of probation. In December 2020, Patel was sentenced to 15 months in prison and Tobin was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Patel was later granted compassionate release after six months of incarceration and ordered to serve six months of home incarceration. Tobin’s sentence was later reduced to four months in prison followed by eight months home incarceration. Tobin was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and forfeited $4 million, and Ledvina and Patel were ordered to a pay $50,000 fine each. They were also ordered to pay restitution, jointly and severally, in the amount of $1,908,583.
A criminal complaint is pending against Carrillo and Veldhuis for the GRMX, OLMM and VBIO pump-and-dumps, as well as against alleged additional co-conspirators Frederick Sharp and Courtney Kelln, all of whom are located outside the United States. The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy and FBI SAC Cohen made the announcement today. The Boston regional office of the SEC provided valuable assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James R. Drabick of the Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit and Carol E. Head, Chief of the Asset Recovery Unit, prosecuted the case.
Updated October 13, 2023
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud