URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: FBI Undercover Operation Leads To Charges Against 13 Individuals In Alleged Penny-Stock Caper; SEC Halts Trading In 7 Companies
URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: Thirteen individuals, including lawyers, corporate officers and a stock promoter, have been charged criminally in an FBI sting aimed at microcap fraud. The SEC has suspended trading in seven companies: 1st Global Financial Inc. (FGFB), based in Las Vegas; Augrid Global Holdings Corp. (AGHD), based in Houston; ComCam International Inc. (CMCJ), based in West Chester, Pa.; MicroHoldings US Inc. (MCHU), based in Vancouver, Wash; Outfront Companies (OTFT), based in Florida; Symbollon Corp./Symbollon Pharmaceuticals Inc. (SYMBA), based in Medfield, Mass; and ZipGlobal Holdings Inc. (ZIPG), based in Hingham, Mass.
Investigators alleged the fraud involved illegal kickbacks and sham consulting agreements in schemes to hype penny stocks. The criminal activity occurred “in the midst of an undercover FBI operation,” the SEC said.
Charged criminally, according to the SEC, were:
- Kelly Black-White, 51, of Mesa, Ariz. Black-White operates Premier Funding Inc. and Premiere Services Inc.. He is charged with wire fraud.
- James Prange, 60, of Greenbush, Wisc. He is affiliated with Northern Equity Inc., and is charged with wire fraud.
- Michael Lee, 51, of Hingham, Mass. Lee is ZipGlobal’s CEO. He is charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
- Edward Henderson, 69, of Lincoln, R.I. He is charged with wire fraud.
- Paul DesJourdy, 50, of Medfield, Mass. DesJourdy is the CEO of Symbollon Pharmaceuticals. He is charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
- James Wheeler, 51, of Camas, Wash. Wheeler is CEO of MicroHoldings Inc. He is charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
- Steve Berman, 49, of Hillsboro, Ohio. He is CEO of China Wi-Max Communications, and is charged with mail and wire fraud.
- Richard Kranitz, 68, of Grafton, Wisc. He is a board member of China Wi-Max Communications, and is charged with mail and wire fraud.
- JC Jordan, 60, of Cameron Park, Calif. Jordan is CEO of Vida Life International LTD. He is charged with mail and wire fraud.
- Karen Person, 61, of Naperville, Ill. She is president of Small Business Company Inc., and is charged with mail and wire fraud.
- Albert Reda, 65, of Tustin, Calif. He is treasurer of 1st Global Financial, and is charged with mail and wire fraud.
- Steve Stuart, 48, of Monrovia, Md. Stuart is a major shareholder in ComCam International Inc., and is charged with mail and wire fraud.
- Muhammad “MJ” Shaheed, 44, of Houston. He is CEO of Augrid Global Holdings Corp., and is charged with mail and wire fraud.
The office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts is handing the criminal cases, the SEC said.
“Kickbacks and phony consulting agreements have no place in the financial strategies of any public company, and executives who engage in this kind of fraud are just selling out their own investors,” said David Bergers, director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office.
The undercover operation, according to the SEC, was under way for a year, and Desjourdy, Henderson, Lee and Wheeler also were charged civilly.