Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

SEC Obtains Asset Freeze Against Alleged International Fraud

The SEC obtained an emergency court order freezing the profits from an alleged $13 million international fraud involving a Seattle-area microcap company and a Barcelona stock promoter. The Commission charged GHL Technologies, Inc., and its CEO Gene Hew-Len with issuing a series of false press releases touting the company's business dealings. The Commission also charged Francisco Abellan (also known as "Frank Abel") of Barcelona, Spain with coordinating the scheme, sending glossy promotional mailers to over 2 million U.S. recipients and unloading over $13 million in GHL stock on unsuspecting investors.  At the SEC's request, the federal district court in Tacoma, Wash. Thursday issued an order freezing Abellan's assets and prohibiting him from further dissipating the proceeds of the scheme (most of which, according to the SEC, he transferred to multiple bank accounts in the principality of Andorra).

GHL (later renamed NXGen Holdings, Inc.) is an installer of GPS-based navigation equipment. According to the Commission's complaint, in early 2006, President and CEO Hew-Len and stock promoter Abellan arranged for GHL to issue millions of shares of GHL stock to offshore entities designated by Abellan. In April 2006, the SEC alleges, Abellan caused the dissemination of "The Street Stock Report," a full-color glossy mailer sent to millions of U.S. addresses urging investors to purchase GHL stock quickly to see huge trading profits. Around the same time, Hew-Len issued nine press releases over a nine-week period hyping the company. Among other things, according to the SEC, the press releases made false claims about contracts with large customers, fraudulently touting millions of dollars in potential revenues.  Following this concerted promotion campaign, GHL's stock price doubled and trading volume spiked nearly 1500%. Abellan and his entities sold their GHL stock holdings for profits in excess of $13 million. The stock, which reached a high of nearly $9 per share at the height of the scheme, now trades at under a penny.

The SEC's complaint charges GHL, Hew-Len and Abellan with numerous securities violations and seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, penalties, and other permanent and emergency relief. Pursuant to the court's order, a hearing will be held on August 27, 2008 to determine whether the asset freeze will remain in place during the remainder of the litigation.

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