Two California Men Indicted for $150 Million Securities Fraud
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendants allegedly conspired to facilitate and participate in pump-and-dumps, and one defendant allegedly attempted to acquire a fraudulent Ukrainian passport to flee prosecution
BOSTON – Two California men have been indicted for their alleged involvement in a sophisticated securities fraud scheme that generated over $150 million in illicit profits.
Joseph A. Padilla, 53, of Carlsbad, Calif. and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, two counts of securities fraud and one count of attempting to cause the production of an identification document without lawful authority. Kevin C. Dills, 66, of Carlsbad, Calif., was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. The defendants will appear in federal court in Boston via remote hearing on March 29, 2023.
According to the indictment, Padilla is a former stockbroker who was barred from the securities industry in 2012 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Dills is the former owner of a broker-dealer who was barred from the securities industry in 2001 by the SEC. Between 2020 and 2022, Padilla allegedly conspired with Dills and others to commit securities fraud by facilitating and participating in pump-and-dumps involving the concealed-control of the shares of penny-stock companies.
The indictment alleges that, between October 2020 and July 2022, Padilla and Dills participated in a lucrative pump-and-dump involving the shares of Oncology Pharma, Inc., a thinly traded company that traded on the over-the-counter securities market under the ticker symbol ONPH. As part of the scheme, Dills allegedly used two companies under his control to exercise convertible debt issued by ONPH and acquire nearly all of ONPH’s free-trading shares.
Dills, who allegedly used the two companies to disguise that he was an affiliate of ONPH, then transferred the ONPH shares to nominees of Padilla, who in turn, caused the shares to be transferred to a broker-dealer in the Cayman Islands with which he had a close association. Padilla and several of his associates then allegedly engaged in manipulative trading in ONPH to drive up the company’s stock price, after which Padilla allegedly began dumping ONPH shares to unsuspecting investors in Massachusetts and throughout the United States, while Dills caused ONPH to issue positive press releases. According to court documents, the scheme generated more than $150 million in illicit profits, $19 million of which Dills allegedly received through his companies for his role in the scheme.
The indictment further alleges that, between January 2020 and April 2021, Padilla participated in a pump-and-dump fraud scheme involving the shares of Charlestowne Premium Beverages Inc., a thinly traded company that traded on the over-the-counter market under the ticker symbol FPWM. As part of the scheme, Padilla allegedly orchestrated the manipulation of Charlestowne’s stock price using his brokerage account and those of several other individuals. He then allegedly facilitated the sale of millions of Charlestowne’s shares at pumped up prices to unsuspecting investors in Massachusetts and throughout the United States, generating over $7 million in illicit profits.
Padilla was arrested on a criminal complaint in August 2022 and released on pre-trial conditions, which included surrendering his passport and not obtaining another passport. The indictment alleges that while on pre-trial release, Padilla attempted to acquire a fraudulent Ukrainian passport so that he could flee prosecution. Based on this alleged conduct, Padilla was arrested in January 2023 for violating his terms of release.
The charge of securities fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $5 million. The charge of conspiracy to commit securities fraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charge of attempt to cause the production of an identification document without lawful authority provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement today. Assistant United States Attorneys James R. Drabick and Ian J. Stearns of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.
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.
Updated March 28, 2023
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud