Last Friday, Thomas J. Heaphy became the fourth individual to plead guilty and be convicted in a stock-manipulation scheme that federal investigators believe cost investors at least $20 million, the Hartford Courant reports. The scheme also sent former lawyer and Hartford City Councilor Corey Brinson to prison (sentenced to three years and fined $1.5 million) earlier this year. The conspirators worked a so-called pump-and-dump scheme, in which they “acquired blocks of stock in worthless companies, then used rigged trades, phony announcements and other fraudulent means to pump up, or inflate, share prices. The conspirators sell their huge blocks of stock on the rise, collapsing prices and leaving unwitting investors with worthless shares.” According to prosecutors, between 2011 and 2016, Heaphy, Christian Meissenn (the supposed ring leader) and others conned investors with stocks in “shell companies:” Terra Energy Resources Ltd. (TRRE); Mammoth Energy Group, Inc. (MMTE), which later became Strategic Asset Leasing Inc. (LEAS); Trilliant Exploration Corporation (TTXP); Hermes Jets, Inc. (HRMJ), which later became Continental Beverage Brands Corporation (CBBB); Dolat Ventures, Inc. (DOLV); and Fox Petroleum, Inc. (FXPT). Meissenn, who is associated with approximately a dozen businesses and real estate across the state and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax-evasion charges last year, is cooperating with authorities and officials. More arrests and indictments are expected.
The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) and its Broker/Dealer Task Force are warning that fraudsters are pretending to be government agencies and duping employees out of money. More than 5 million Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) participants and investors in other federal government employee retirement plans could be subject to a scam, so the agency put out some reminders of what to watch out for. Among the tips: the TSP will never contact you by email, telephone or mail asking you to provide sensitive personal information such as your account number, Social Security number, password or PIN.
An advisor group affiliated with Great Western Bank has dropped Cetera and partnered with Raymond James Financial Services. Great Western Investments & Insurance, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, includes 17 advisors who collectively oversee more than $750 million in client assets. Great Western Bank has more than 170 branches in nine states, $11.5 billion in total assets, and $9 billion in deposits.