Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The SEC charged a purported heart monitoring device company and six individuals involved in a series of fraudulent schemes to artificially inflate the company’s stock. Among those charged are a former pro football player, a Hollywood talent agent, and an attorney who masterminded the scheme. According to the SEC. Heart Tronics installed former pro football player Willie Gault as a figurehead co-CEO along with former Hollywood executive J. Rowland Perkins in order to generate publicity for the company and foster investor confidence. Meanwhile behind the scenes, California-based attorney Mitchell J. Stein was controlling most of the company’s business activities, hiring promoters to tout Heart Tronics stock on the Internet, and reaping nearly $8 million from secret trades that he orchestrated.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles, Gault and Perkins rarely questioned Stein’s fraudulent agenda and abdicated their fiduciary responsibilities under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Stein and Gault together defrauded one investor into making a substantial investment in Heart Tronics based on false representations that his money would fund the company’s operations. Instead, Stein and Gault diverted the investor’s proceeds for personal use, including the purchase of Heart Tronics stock in Gault’s personal brokerage account “Catch 83” to create the false appearance of volume and investor demand for the stock.
In a parallel criminal investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice today announced the arrest of Stein.
The SEC’s complaint charges the defendants with various violations of the federal securities laws and seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest financial penalties and permanent injunctive relief.