Securities Attorney Convicted of Market Manipulation Scheme
BOSTON – A California-based securities attorney was convicted today by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with his role in manipulating the stock of a series of publicly traded companies, including CitySide Tickets, Inc., a Boston-based ticket reseller.
Richard Weed, 53, of Newport Beach, Calif., was convicted following a 10 day trial of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Aug. 16, 2016.
Weed, along with at least two others, conspired to create the appearance that CitySide was a growing company when, in fact, it was in dire financial straits. Weed, who served as CitySide’s Secretary and as one of two members of CitySide’s Board, was responsible for drafting false and misleading legal opinion letters so that his co-conspirators could obtain free trading stock. Weed also helped his co-conspirators to conceal their control and ownership of CitySide by directing the stock to be distributed to different entities that they controlled. This allowed the conspirators to manipulate CitySide’s stock and sell their shares at artificially high prices. In addition to assisting with the manipulation itself, Weed was also responsible for responding to any inquiries from investors or securities regulators.
The conviction follows 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 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 Securities and Exchange Commission.
The charges of securities and wire fraud each provide for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. The maximum fine for securities fraud is $5 million and the maximum fine for wire fraud is $250,000, or twice the gross loss to the victim. The conspiracy charge provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss to the victim. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, which conducted a parallel civil investigation, cooperated with criminal authorities in bringing this case.
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 is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Walters, Chief of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit and SEC Attorney Eric A. Forni, who was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.