Monday, March 12, 2007
The SEC announced the filing of civil charges against three Indian nationals who participated in a fraudulent scheme to manipulate the prices of at least fourteen securities through the unauthorized use of other people’s online brokerage accounts. One victim had $180,000 cash and equity in his online brokerage account before a five-day fishing trip only to find a negative $200,000 balance when he returned. In a related action, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal court in Nebraska today unsealed a twenty-three count indictment against the individuals charged in the Commission’s complaint.
The SEC has brought four account intrusion cases since December, involving defendants in Estonia, Latvia and now, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
According to the Commission’s complaint, between July and November 2006, the Defendants repeatedly hijacked the online brokerage accounts of unwitting investors using stolen usernames and passwords. Prior to intruding into these accounts, the Defendants acquired positions in the securities of at least fourteen securities, including Sun Microsystems, Inc., and “out of the money” put options on shares of Google, Inc. Then, without the accountholders’ knowledge, and using the victims’ own accounts and funds, the Defendants placed scores of unauthorized buy orders at above-market prices. After these unauthorized buy orders were placed, the Defendants sold the positions held in their own accounts at the artificially inflated prices, realizing profits of over $121,500.