Virginia Man Sentenced for Securities Fraud Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
BOSTON – A Virginia man was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for participating in a pump-and-dump securities fraud scheme involving the Massachusetts-based company Cannabiz Mobile, Inc.
Anthony Jay Pignatello, 53, of Winchester, Va., was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge George A. OToole, Jr. to five months probation, with the first six weeks to be served on home detention. He was also ordered to pay $41,547 in forfeiture. In March 2021, Pignatello pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Between 2012 and 2015, Pignatello and co-conspirator Christopher R. Esposito worked together to conceal their control over Cannabiz Mobile and to use backdated promissory notes and other false and misleading documents to fraudulently obtain free-trading shares in the company. Among other steps taken in furtherance of the scheme, Esposito caused another individual to be installed as the company’s chairman, president and CEO, and Pignatello then drafted numerous backdated and false documents for the executive to sign. In reality, the executive reported to Esposito. Pignatello and Esposito then arranged for a promotional campaign in October 2014 to artificially inflate the value and trading volume of Cannabiz Mobile, Inc’s stock so that they could secretly sell their shares. In total, Pignatello personally sold over 800,000 shares fraudulently obtained as part of the scheme.
On Nov. 14, 2023, Esposito was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris to five years of probation, with three months to be served at a halfway house. Esposito was also ordered to pay $20,294 in forfeiture in connection with the pump-and-dump of Cannabiz Mobile. Additionally, he was ordered to pay $61,693.50 in restitution to investors who lost money in a separate purported business venture that Esposito pitched involving the company Code2Action, Inc. Between August 2019 and February 2020, Esposito represented to investors that he would take Code2Action, Inc. public via a reverse merger and he solicited investments in the company for that purpose. The reverse merger, however, never took place.
Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy and Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Drabick of the Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.
Updated December 12, 2023
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud