Three Men Arrested For 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, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the arrests of VLADIMIR ZISKIND, a/k/a “Mike Palmer,” KEITH ORLEAN, a/k/a “Jack Allen,” and KEVIN WEINZOFF, a/k/a “Mike Palmer,” and unsealing of a criminal complaint charging ZISKIND, ORLEAN, and WEINZOFF with conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud in connection with their scheme to target elderly persons to solicit purchases of stock in a series of valueless companies through a variety of lies and misrepresentations. The defendants are expected to be presented this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, the defendants worked together over several years to trick elderly individuals into investing millions of dollars in worthless stock. The defendants allegedly deceived their victims into handing over their hard-earned money in exchange for nothing but lies and false promises. Today’s arrests demonstrate that this profoundly harmful and cynical alleged conduct will not be tolerated.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “We take all cases of securities fraud seriously, but there are few fraud schemes sleazier than defrauding elderly victims through deceit and manipulation. The defendants allegedly solicited more than $2 million in stock purchases from their more than four dozen victims. While nothing could restore the damage that has already been done, today we begin the process of holding those charged accountable for their actions.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court:
For several years, the 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 VLADIMIR ZISKIND or 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 KEITH ORLEAN 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, one of the defendants 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 defendant KEITH 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 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.
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ZISKIND, 49, of Brooklyn, New York, ORLEAN, 60, of Dix Hills, New York, and WEINZOFF, 53, of Brooklyn, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of wire fraud. The securities fraud, wire fraud, and wire fraud conspiracy counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The conspiracy to commit securities fraud count carries a maximum penalty of five 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.
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 Andrew Thomas and Max Nicholas are in charge of the case.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.