Former South Florida Attorney and Stock Promoter Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Securities Fraud in Relation to Pump and Dump Stock Manipulation Scheme
A former South Florida attorney and a stock promoter pled guilty today in connection with a $1 million pump and dump securities fraud scheme involving the shares of Valentine Beauty, Inc. (“VLBI”).
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney, Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Mark E. Fisher, 53, of Boca Raton, Florida, and Joseph F. Capuozzo, 57, of Davie, Florida, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams, in Miami, to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, in Case No. 18-CR-20823. Judge Williams is scheduled to sentence Capuozzo on February 21, 2019 and Fisher on March 25, 2019. Each defendant faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 or double the gross proceeds of the offense.
Previously, Eddy Ubaldo Marin, 56, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and Shane R. Spierdowis, 27, formerly of Boca Raton, were charged with securities fraud offenses in connection with the same VLBI scheme. Marin pled guilty and was sentenced on September 5, 2018, to 210 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles (Case No. 18-CR-20354-DPG). Spierdowis also pled guilty and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ursala Ungaro to 5 years on probation. (Case No. 18-CR-20355-UU).
According to court documents, VLBI was a beauty products supply company with operations in Sunrise, Florida, that marketed its products on television infomercials and elsewhere. Shares of VLBI stock were publicly traded and quoted over the counter on OTC Link. In approximately November 2013, Marin and other accomplices arranged to secretly obtain a controlling interest in VLBI stock by issuing shares to certain third parties, including Green Tree Capital, Inc., a company controlled by Marin and Capuozzo, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Fisher, formerly a practicing lawyer licensed to practice in Florida and New York, was a securities lawyer based in Boca Raton who allegedly became involved with the manipulation of VLBI shares at the invitation of Marin. Fisher allegedly executed various false and fraudulent documents to facilitate the scheme, including certain legal opinion letters that falsely indicated that shares controlled by Marin and other conspirators, were not in fact owned or controlled by “affiliates” of the companies. Such letters allowed shares of VLBI to be falsely classified as “free trading” and thus sold to the public, when in reality that were restricted. In March and April, 2014, Marin, Fisher, Capuozzo, Spierdowis, and other conspirators arranged to transfer a substantial number of shares into brokerage accounts in the name of fictitious entities, but in reality controlled by the conspirators. In addition, according to court documents, Fisher, Capuozzo and other conspirators knew that Marin was a convicted felon and attempted to conceal his role in the scheme by keeping his name off of corporate documents. To facilitate the concealment of Marin’s role, Capuozzo became the listed owner of an entity that held Marin’s VLBI shares and traded the shares at the direction of Marin. Capuozzo also served as the nominee Chief Executive Officer of VLBI, while acting at the direction of Marin and the conspirators.
Thereafter, beginning in approximately May 2014 and continuing through in or around September 2014, Marin, Fisher, Capuozzo, Spierdowis, and others arranged for VLBI to issue rosy press releases, while also using internet marketing and penny stock newsletters to tout VLBI stock. These efforts were intended to artificially increase the trading volume and price of VLBI shares, so that Marin, Fisher, Capuozzo, Spierdowis and their co-conspirators could secretly sell shares at a profit. During the conspiracy period, the conspirators sold approximately $1 million worth of VLBI shares to the investing public.
In approximately June 2014, Marin began a term of federal imprisonment due to a different federal offense, and was ultimately incarcerated at FCI Miami. While Marin was at FCI Miami, Fisher, Capuozzo, Spierdowis, and others continued the stock manipulation scheme, while keeping a larger portion of the trading profits for themselves. The conspirators continued to sell shares of VLBI, while continuing the same pattern of issuing press releases and engaging in coordinated sales of shares, until approximately April 26, 2016, when trading in VLBI shares was suspended by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Previously, the SEC filed parallel civil enforcement actions against Fisher, Capuozzo, Marin and Spierdowis.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. She also thanked the SEC’s Miami Regional Office for their assistance. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Lehr is handling asset forfeiture related to the matter.