Monday, April 15, 2013
FINRA filed a complaint against John Thomas Financial (JTF), of New York, NY, and its Chief Executive Officer, Anastasios "Tommy" Belesis, charging fraud in connection with the sale of America West Resources, Inc. (AWSR) common stock, intimidation of registered representatives, trading ahead, failing to provide best execution for customer orders and various other violations. The complaint also names Michele Misiti, Branch Office Manager; John Ward, trader; Joseph Castellano, Chief Compliance Officer; and Ronald Vincent Cantalupo, Regional Managing Director.
JTF and many of its customers owned AWSR stock as a result of participation in the company's private financings. According to the complaint, on Feb. 23, 2012, the price of AWSR common stock, which at the time was thinly traded on the OTC Bulletin Board, spiked higher, by over approximately 600 percent, opening at 28 cents per share, peaking at $1.80 per share and eventually closing the day at $1.29 per share. On the same day, JTF sold 855,000 shares, the majority of its proprietary position in AWSR, reaping proceeds of more than $1 million.
The complaint alleges that while JTF sold its shares at the height of the price spike, the firm received at least 15 customer orders to sell more than one million shares, yet only entered one of these orders for execution on Feb. 23, 2012. Instead, JTF and Belesis prevented the orders from being executed on the same day they were received and some customer orders were executed the following day or days after at prices grossly inferior to those obtained by the firm while other customer orders were not entered or executed at all. AWSR is now in bankruptcy and the customers' investments are virtually worthless.
In addition, the complaint alleges that JTF and Belesis, through Misiti and Castellano, lied to the firm's registered representatives and customers about the reasons the customer shares could not be sold on Feb. 23, 2012, including that there was a problem with the clearing firm's trading systems, there was insufficient volume on that day to fill the orders, and the shares could not be sold because they were restricted under the Securities Act of 1933.