New Jersey Stock Promoter Identified in Undercover Operation Sentenced to Prison
BOSTON – A New Jersey stock promoter was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Boston for his involvement in a scheme to artificially manipulate the stock price of Massachusetts-based company, Amogear Inc.
Michael Affa, 36, of Toms River, NJ, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $1 million. In September 2015, Affa pleaded guilty to conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud.
In 2013 and 2014, a federal undercover operation monitored in real-time, Affa’s participation in the scheme to manipulate the stock price of Amogear. In February 2014, the SEC suspended trading in the securities of Amogear as the attempted manipulation of its stock was underway. Prior to the suspension, Affa and his co-conspirators, who were all stock promoters, carried out a scheme to create a false appearance of an active market in the stock, including a false media campaign designed to increase the price of the stock, knowing that Amogear was a shell company without any real operations. Affa and his co-conspirators planned to sell the stock into the market at artificially inflated prices from which they would profit. What Affa did not know was that Amogear was controlled by the FBI and used to obtain evidence of their attempt to manipulate the market.
The case arises from a multi-year investigation focusing on preventing fraud in the microcap stock markets. Microcap companies are small, publicly-traded companies whose stock often trades at pennies per share. Fraud in the microcap stock markets is of increasing concern to regulators as such markets have proven to be fertile grounds for fraud and abuse. This is, in part, because accurate information about microcap stocks may be difficult for the average investor to find, since many microcap companies do not file financial reports with the SEC.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vassili Thomadakis of Ortiz’s Criminal Division and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Forni and Andrew Palid of the Securities and Exchange Commission.