Hey, Dude, Where's My Stock?
TACOMA, Wash. (CN) - The SEC on Tuesday charged four stock promoters with manipulating prices of microcap companies, "including marijuana-related stocks that the agency has warned investors about in recent weeks."
The SEC said in a statement that the promoters, three of whom live in the Pacific Northwest, bought cheap shares of thinly traded penny stocks and then "conducted pre-arranged, manipulative matched orders and wash trades to create the illusion of an active market in these stocks. They then sold their shares in coordination with aggressive promotional campaigns that urged investors to buy the stocks because the prices were on the verge of rising substantially. However, these companies had little to no business operations at the time. The promoters reaped more than $2.5 million in illegal profits through their schemes."
Charged were Mikhail Galas, of Vancouver, Wash.; Alexander Hawatmeh, of Lincoln City, Ore.; Christopher Mrowca, of Bradenton, Fla.; and Tovy Pustovit, of Vancouver, Wash.
Hawatmeh is a member of Worthmore Investments LLC, which owns a stock promotion website called stockhaven.com.
Mrowca operates Money Runners Group LLC, which runs the stock promotion website MoneyRunnersGroup.com.
Pustovit owns the stock promotion website Explosive Alerts, the SEC said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office filed parallel criminal action against Galas, Hawatmeh and Mrowca.
"Two of the companies manipulated in this case - GrowLife Inc. and Hemp Inc. - claim to be related to the medical marijuana industry," the SEC said. "The SEC has issued an investor alert warning about possible scams involving marijuana-related investments, noting that fraudsters often exploit the latest growth industries to lure investors into stock manipulation schemes. Other schemes by these four promoters involved an oil-and-gas company - Riverdale Oil and Gas Corporation -and three other microcap stocks, ISM International, Allied Products Corp, and Aden Solutions."