U.K. Brokerage Firm, Investment Manager, CEO, and Others Charged by SEC for Manipulating the Securities of Microcap Issuers HD View 360 Inc. and West Coast Ventures Group Corp.
On March 2, 2018, the SEC announced securities fraud charges against a U.K.-based broker-dealer and its investment manager in connection with manipulative trading in the securities of HD View 360 Inc., a U.S.-based microcap issuer. Charges were also announced against HD View’s CEO, another individual, and three entities they control for manipulating HD View’s securities, as well as the securities of another microcap issuer, West Coast Ventures Group Corp. Additionally, the SEC announced that an order suspending trading in the securities of HD View was instituted.
SEC’s Charges and FBI Undercover Operation Resulting in Criminal Prosecutions
The SEC’s charges stem, in part, from an undercover FBI operation, which also resulted in related criminal prosecutions against these defendants by the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York.
The SEC’s Complaint Against Beaufort Securities and Peter Kyriacou
In a complaint filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, the SEC alleges that Beaufort Securities Ltd. (“Beaufort”) and Peter Kyriacou (“Kyriacou”), an investment manager at Beaufort, manipulated the market for HD View’s common stock. The scheme involved an undercover FBI agent who described his business as manipulating U.S. stocks through pump-and-dump schemes. Kyriacou and the undercover FBI agent discussed depositing large blocks of microcap stock in Beaufort accounts, driving up the price of the stock through promotions, manipulating the stock’s price and volume through matched trades, and then selling the shares for a large profit.
Allegedly, Beaufort and Kyriacou:
- Opened brokerage accounts for the undercover FBI agent in the names of nominees in order to conceal his identity and his connection to the anticipated trading activity in the accounts.
- Suggested that the undercover FBI agent could create the false appearance that HD View’s stock was liquid in advance of a pump-and-dump by “gam[ing] the market” through matched trades.
- Executed multiple purchase orders of HD View shares with the understanding that Beaufort’s client had arranged for an associate to simultaneously offer an equivalent number of shares at the same price.
The SEC’s Complaint Against HD View CEO Dennis Mancino, William Hirschy, DJK Investments 10 Inc., TJM Investments Inc. & WT Consulting Group, LLC
A second complaint filed by the SEC in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, alleges that in a series of recorded telephone conversations with the undercover FBI agent, HD View CEO Dennis Mancino (“Mancino”) and William T. Hirschy (“Hirschy”) agreed to manipulate HD View’s common stock by using the undercover agent’s network of brokers to generate fraudulent retail demand for the stock in exchange for a kickback from the trading proceeds. According to the complaint, the three men agreed that Mancino and Hirschy would manipulate HD View stock to a higher price before using the undercover agent’s brokers to liquidate their positions at an artificially inflated price. The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Mancino and Hirschy executed a “test trade” on Jan. 31, 2018, coordinated by the undercover FBI agent, consisting of a sell order placed by the defendants filled by an opposing purchase order placed by a broker into an account at Beaufort.
Mancino and Hirschy, however, were not aware that the Beaufort account used for this trade was a nominal account that was opened and funded by the agent. The SEC’s complaint also alleges that, prior to their contact with the undercover agent, Mancino and Hirschy manipulated the market for HD View and for West Coast by using brokerage accounts that they owned, controlled, or were associated with –including TJM Investments Inc., DJK Investments 10 Inc., WT Consulting Group LLC – to effect manipulative “matched trades.”
The SEC’s complaint against Beaufort and Kyriacou charges the defendants with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC also charged Hirschy, Mancino, and their corporate entities with violating Section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 9(a)(1), 9(a)(2), and 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5(a) and (c) thereunder.
The SEC is seeking injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, penalties, and penny stock bars from Beaufort and Kyriacou. With respect to Hirschy, Mancino, and their corporate entities, the SEC is seeking injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, penalties, penny stock bars, and an officer-and-director bar against Mancino.