You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 4, 2019

Former Salesman Pleads Guilty In Scheme To Defraud Elderly Victims In The Sale Of Worthless Stock

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that VLADIMIR ZISKIND pled guilty to participating in a scheme to target elderly persons to solicit purchases of stock in a series of valueless companies through a variety of lies and misrepresentations.  ZISKIND pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud before U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Vladimir Ziskind callously preyed on elderly victims, cold-calling them with a time-sensitive offer to purchase an ‘IPO’ of a company that was ‘doing great.’  In reality, the companies for which Ziskand purported to be selling IPOs were under his control, and there was zero legitimate investment opportunity for his victims.  Ziskand has admitted to his scheme, which netted over $2 million, and now faces a prison term for his lies.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, the Indictment, and statements made in related court filings and proceedings:[1]

For several years, ZISKIND and his co-defendants operated a fraudulent scheme in which a salesman named “Mike Palmer” would call elderly persons on the phone and offer them what he claimed was a time-sensitive opportunity to buy stock in certain companies.  In fact, there was no “Mike Palmer,” and the salesman was actually ZISKIND or co-defendant Kevin Weinzoff, who were taking turns using the fake alias.  The purported time-sensitive investment opportunity was also fabricated by the defendants, as the companies in which they solicited investments were actually companies under their control.  In one intercepted phone call conversation, ZISKIND described to co-defendant Keith Orlean, the chief executive officer of the company, his strategy for a successful investor sales pitch as: “You ram it down their fucking throat.”  In another intercepted call between ZISKIND and Orlean, upon learning that a particular victim investor died, ZISKIND remarked:  “I knew I should have pulled the last $10,000 out of him.”   

The most recent version of the defendants’ phony sales pitch included false representations about an impending initial public offering, or “IPO,” for their company, Digital Donations Technologies, Inc.  For example, in April 2018, ZISKIND assured a victim investor that “our company is doing great,” that the company had an offer for an IPO valued at approximately $300 million, and that Orlean was considering a private sale of the company for more than $1.5 billion.  In truth, however, the defendants knew that the company had little or no actual commercial value and that no such IPO or sale was taking place.   

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) estimates that since April 2014, the defendants have convinced more than approximately 50 elderly persons to purchase stock in companies controlled by one or more of the defendants based on false representations.  The defendants appear to have solicited more than $2 million in stock purchases from victims.

*                *                *

ZISKIND, 51, of Brooklyn, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

ZISKIND is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Broderick on January 16, 2020, at 2:30 p.m.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding work of the FBI.

The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert L. Boone and Andrew Thomas are in charge of the case.

 

[1] As for the defendants who have pled not guilty, the description of the charges set forth herein constitute only allegations.

Topic(s): 
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 
19-324
Updated October 4, 2019