April 22, 2012
SEC Charges Brothers with Stock-Picking Robot Scam
Sometimes there are scams that are so outlandish that one can only shake one's head in dispair over the investors' gullibility. Here is one of those:
The SEC charged twin brothers from the U.K. with defrauding approximately 75,000 investors through an Internet-based pump-and-dump scheme in which they touted a fake “stock picking robot” that purportedly identified penny stocks set to double in price. Instead, the brothers were merely touting stocks they were being paid separately to promote.
According to the SEC, Alexander John Hunter and Thomas Edward Hunter were just 16 years old when they set their fraud in motion beginning in 2007. They disseminated e-mail newsletters through a pair of websites they created to tout stocks selected by the robot – which they described as a highly sophisticated computer trading program that was the product of extensive research and development. The Hunters received at least $1.2 million from investors primarily in the U.S. who paid $47 apiece for annual newsletter subscriptions. Some investors paid an additional fee for the “home version” of the robot software.
In reality, the SEC alleges that the Hunters used a third website to offer their services as stock promoters, claiming that they could “rocket” a stock’s price and increase its volume by sending out newsletters. The Hunters were consequently paid at least $1.865 million in fees from known or suspected stock promoters, and they did not disclose to their newsletter followers the conflicting relationship between their two businesses.
The SEC’s complaint charges the Hunters with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the U.S. securities laws and seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.
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