Two Men Admit Roles In Three Year, Cross-Country Insider Trading Scheme That Netted More Than $3.9 Million
TRENTON, N.J. - Two day traders today admitted participating in a multi-year insider trading scheme that made over $3.9 million in illicit profits by exploiting material information in violation of confidentiality agreements, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ronald Chernin, 67, of Oak Park, California, and Steven Costantin, 55, of Farmingdale, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to separate informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Chernin and Costantin worked as day traders for Costantin’s brother-in-law, Steven Fishoff, 58, of Westlake Village, California. Between May 2010 and August 2013, Chernin, Costantin, and Fishoff, as well as a business associate referred to as “Trader A,” expressed interest in participating in numerous stocks offerings by publicly traded companies.
Chernin, Costantin, and other members of the day trading operation falsely characterized their trading entities as legitimate, full-service financial management firms with as much as $150 million in assets under management, in order to increase the likelihood that the investment bankers would solicit them to participate in the stock offerings.
Before providing confidential information concerning the companies or the terms of the proposed sales, the investment bankers first required that Chernin, Costantin, Fishoff, Trader A, and their associated trading entities, enter into confidentiality or “wall-crossing” agreements whereby they agreed not to disclose or trade on the inside information and were brought “over the wall” for the narrow purpose of determining whether to purchase the offered securities.
Instead, Chernin, Costantin, and Fishoff violated the confidentiality agreements by directly or indirectly tipping each other and others with the inside information concerning the stock offerings; short selling the issuers’ stock in anticipation of a drop in price when the stock offerings were disclosed to the public; and covering their short positions once the stock offerings were disclosed. Additionally, Fishoff tipped his friend, Paul Petrello, 54, of Boca Raton, Florida, and another friend identified in the documents as “CC-1.”
By trading on the nonpublic information, Chernin, Costantin, and their conspirators gained more than $3.9 million in illicit profits over the course of the three-year scheme. Chernin and Costantin shared 50 percent of their profits with Fishoff.
The conspiracy count to which Chernin and Costantin each pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The securities fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Chernin and Costantin are both scheduled for sentencing on July 7, 2016.
Petrello previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is scheduled for sentencing on May 25, 2016. Fishoff has been indicted for his involvement in the insider trading scheme. The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and Fishoff is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty pleas. He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s New York Regional Office, under the direction of Sanjay Wadhwa.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shirley U. Emehelu and Nicholas P. Grippo of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, as well as Acting Chief Barbara Ward and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Devlin of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
Today’s pleas are part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov
Ronald Chernin – John P. Lacey, Esq., Roseland, NJ
Steven Costantin – Scott A. Resnik, Esq., New York, NY