ANOTHER FLORIDA FRAUD CONVICTION: Michael J. Muzio Ran ‘Pump-And-Dump’ Scheme In Case Tied To Ponzi And Affinity-Fraud Scheme Targeting Haitian-Americans

A Florida man implicated in a pump-and-dump scheme tied to a Ponzi- and affinity-fraud scheme has been convicted and faces decades in federal prison.

Michael J. Muzio, 46, of Tampa, was convicted on six counts of securities fraud, two counts of substantive wire fraud, two counts of lying to the SEC and the FBI and one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud.

Muzio’s pump-and-dump scheme is linked to the alleged Home Pals Investment Club Ponzi and affinity-fraud scheme involving Ronnie Eugene Bass Jr., Abner Alabre and Brian J. Taglieri.

Bass, Alabre and Taglieri were accused civilly and criminally of targeting Haitian-Americans in a $14.3 million scheme.

Alabre, 33, of Miramar, Fla., and Taglieri, 39, of Jupiter, Fla., already have pleaded guilty to criminal charges, which were brought in October 2009. Bass and Alabre were accused by the SEC of fooling investors by saying Taglieri was Home Pals’ attorney, but Taglieri is not an attorney, according to records.

Muzio defrauded Haitian-American and other investors in South Florida and elsewhere “by manipulating” the stock price of International Business Ventures Group (IBVG), a Florida shell company “with no assets and virtually no business activities,” prosecutors said.

IBVG purportedly was operated from Palm Beach Gardens. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described the Palm Beach area as the “ground zero” of financial fraud. Holder ventured to Palm Beach to make a speech and introduce the Obama administration’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

The manipulation scheme was carried out through “coordinated stock purchases and sales designed to artificially impact share prices,” the FBI said.

“To induce investors to purchase the stock, [Muzio] created a false impression that an active market for the stock existed by engaging in illegal ‘wash trades’ in which he simultaneously entered buy orders through one brokerage account under his control and offsetting sell orders at the same price through another brokerage account under his control.

“These trades had no real economic effect, but the defendant’s brokers unwittingly reported the trading activity and potential investors who saw the online reports were misled into believing that the stock was actively traded at the quoted prices,” the FBI said.

As often is the case in pump-and-dump schemes, Muzio “issued false and misleading press releases” claiming that the company had profitable business dealings.

Muzio claimed IBVG “had deals to provide and offer prepaid debit cards in Haiti,” as well as prepaid calling cards and “exclusive rights to market prepaid electric meters in Haiti,” the FBI said.

“Investors were offered the chance to purchase free-trading shares of stock, but then received certificates for restricted shares which could not be traded and ultimately proved to be worthless,” the FBI said.

Home Pals advised website viewers that the company was “honest” and adhered to “uncompromising ethics,” the SEC said.

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