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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ymer Shahini Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud Conspiracy In Connection With Scheme To Defraud Investors And Shareholders

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that YMER SHAHINI pled guilty today before United States District Judge P. Kevin Castel in connection with his role in a scheme to defraud shareholders of a publicly traded company and the investing public.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Ymer Shahini has now admitted to his vital role in a multimillion-dollar fraud.  He knowingly served as a straw man to conceal beneficial ownership of stock, which facilitated a fraudulent scheme that reaped tens of millions in illegal profits.”           

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment:

From 2009 to 2011, YMER SHAHINI, along with co-defendants Jason Galanis, John Galanis, Derek Galanis, Gary Hirst, and Gavin Hamels, engaged in a scheme to defraud the shareholders of a publicly traded company called Gerova Financial Group, Ltd. (“Gerova”), and the investing public, by obtaining secret control over millions of shares of Gerova stock and then manipulating the market for the stock as the defendants caused their secretly held shares to be sold.  As part of the scheme, the defendants fraudulently generated demand for Gerova stock by bribing investment advisers to purchase for client accounts the Gerova stock that was sold by the defendants, thereby enabling the defendants to cash out from the scheme and make millions in illegal profits.   

As a part of the scheme to defraud, Jason Galanis obtained such control over Gerova so as 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 identifying himself as an officer or director of Gerova to avoid the SEC-imposed bar that prohibited him from holding such positions at publicly traded companies.  Among other means and methods, Jason Galanis, with the assistance of Gary Hirst, caused more than five million shares of Gerova stock, which represented nearly half the company’s public float and which was 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.  SHAHINI, Jason Galanis, John Galanis, Derek Galanis, and Hirst 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, John Galanis and Derek Galanis, among others, with the knowledge and approval of YMER SHAHINI and Jason Galanis, 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 also fraudulently induced investment advisers, including Gavin Hamels and others, 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 was 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.

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SHAHINI, 49, a citizen of Kosovo, was the first defendant extradited to the United States pursuant to the extradition treaty between the United States and the Republic of Kosovo, which went into effect on June 13, 2019.  SHAHINI pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  SHAHINI will be sentenced by Judge Castel on December 12, 2019, at 2:15 p.m.

The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Berman praised the work of the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for its assistance. 

This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Blais, Rebecca Mermelstein, and Elizabeth Espinosa are in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 
19-287
Updated September 10, 2019