Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that JASON GALANIS was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for manipulating the market for Gerova Financial Group, Ltd. (“Gerova”), a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and to defrauding the shareholders of that company. JASON GALANIS was also sentenced for defrauding the clients of an investment advisory firm. JASON GALANIS pled guilty on July 21, 2016, to two counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, one count of securities fraud and one count of investment adviser fraud. GALANIS was sentenced today by United States District Judge P. Kevin Castel.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As he previously admitted in his guilty plea, Jason Galanis swindled the shareholders and clients of Gerova Financial and Tag Virgin Islands out of tens of millions of dollars in a massive fraud scheme. Today, he was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his participation in these fraud schemes.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment filed against JASON GALANIS and his co-conspirators and statements made in related court filings and proceedings:
The Gerova Scheme
From 2009 to 2011, JASON GALANIS, along with his co-conspirators John Galanis, Gary Hirst, Derek Galanis, Ymer Shahini, and Gavin Hamels, engaged in a scheme to defraud the shareholders of Gerova and the investing public by effecting securities transactions in Gerova stock for the purpose of conferring millions of dollars of undisclosed remuneration on JASON GALANIS and his co-conspirators, without adequate disclosure of JASON GALANIS’s role in directing the transactions or the benefits received by JASON GALANIS and his co-conspirators.
As a part of the scheme to defraud, JASON GALANIS obtained sufficient control over Gerova to be able to cause Gerova to enter into transactions of his design, and for his benefit, including the issuance of Gerova stock. JASON GALANIS obtained this control without causing himself to be identified as an officer or director of Gerova in order to appear to abide by an SEC-imposed bar that forbade him from holding such positions at publicly traded companies. Among other means and methods, JASON GALANIS, with the assistance of Hirst, caused over five million shares of Gerova stock, which represented nearly half the company’s public float and which were intended for JASON GALANIS’s ultimate benefit, to be issued to and held in the name of Ymer Shahini, who knowingly served as a foreign nominee for JASON GALANIS. JASON GALANIS, John Galanis, Derek Galanis, Hirst, and Shahini understood that the purpose of the stock grant to Shahini was to disguise JASON GALANIS’s ownership interest in the stock, and to evade the SEC’s regulations for issuing unregistered shares of stock.
At the same time, and as a further part of the scheme to defraud, JASON GALANIS’s co-conspirators, with his knowledge and approval, opened and managed brokerage accounts in the name of Shahini (the “Shahini Accounts”), effected the sale of Gerova stock from the Shahini Accounts, and received and concealed the proceeds, knowing that this activity was designed to conceal from the investing public JASON GALANIS’s ownership of and control over the Gerova stock.
JASON GALANIS, among others, also fraudulently induced investment advisers, including Gavin Hamels, to purchase shares of Gerova stock in the investment advisers’ client accounts by offering compensation and/or other benefits to the respective investment adviser. By causing the purchase of Gerova stock at the time, quantity, and/or price of their choosing, JASON GALANIS and others were able to, among other things, effectuate the sale of large quantities of Gerova stock from the Shahini Accounts that JASON GALANIS controlled while artificially maintaining the price of Gerova stock through coordinated match trading. Such coordinated trading served to manipulate the market for Gerova stock and deceive the investing public. As a result, JASON GALANIS and his co-conspirators reaped nearly $20 million in profits.
The Scheme to Defraud Clients of TAG Virgin Islands, Inc.
From 2007 to 2010, JASON GALANIS, along with an investment adviser named James Tagliaferri, participated in a scheme to defraud the clients of Tagliaferri’s investment advisory firm, which was called TAG Virgin Islands, Inc. (“TAG”). Often in exchange for compensation from JASON GALANIS, Tagliaferri caused TAG’s clients to invest in notes issued by entities associated with JASON GALANIS.
When obligations owed by entities associated with JASON GALANIS became due, Tagliaferri used client funds to purchase either notes issued by other entities associated with JASON GALANIS or publicly traded shares held by such entities. The funds generated were then used to pay the original obligations owed to other TAG clients. Through these securities trades, funds in client accounts of one set of TAG investors were used to pay obligations owed to a different set of TAG investors by entities associated with JASON GALANIS.
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In addition to the prison term, GALANIS, 46, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, and was ordered to forfeit $37,591,681.10, as well as his interests in properties in New York and Los Angeles. Judge Castel will set a restitution amount at a future proceeding.
JASON GALANIS’s co-defendant Jared Galanis, who pled guilty to misprision of a felony in connection with the Gerova scheme, was sentenced to a term of 150 days in prison on January 11, 2017. John Galanis and Derek Galanis, each of whom pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud in connection with the Gerova scheme, are scheduled to be sentenced on February 16, 2017. Gary Hirst, who was found guilty after trial of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 17, 2017.
Defendant Ymer Shahini remains a fugitive. The allegations contained in the Indictment as to Shahini are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and thanked the SEC.
The charges were brought in connection with the President’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 is 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.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Blais, Aimee Hector, and Rebecca Mermelstein are in charge of the prosecution.