KABOOM! More Bad News For Fraudsters: ‘FBI Undercover Operation’ Leads To Florida Fraud Busts; 20 Charged In Alleged Schemes, Including ‘CHiPs’ Actor
An undercover sting conducted by the FBI has resulted in fraud charges being filed against 20 individuals or companies. The sting was centered in southern Florida. Among those charged was Larry Wilcox, one of the stars of the long-running television program “CHiPs” in which Wilcox played the role of a California police officer, the SEC said.
Records suggest Wilcox agreed to become a government informant after becoming implicated in the probe.
Wilcox, 63, of West Hills, Calif., was among a group charged both civilly and criminally. The case was brought after the FBI conducted an undercover probe into penny-stock schemes.
â€œSecurities fraud is an equal opportunity crime — it runs the gamut from very large to very small publicly traded companies,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida.
Ferrer noted that “even microcap companies are plagued by fraudsters who seek to manipulate the stock market to line their own pockets.”
Separately, the SEC said the sting was conducted “in such a way that no investors suffered harm” — an announcement that could send shockwaves across the fraud universe because it demonstrates that investigators are infiltrating schemes and relying on informants to unmask the schemers.
Wilcox, for example, believed he was doing business with a “corrupt trustee,” according to court filings. Records suggest that Wilcox entered a deal with the government in July in which he would cooperate in an ongoing probe.
“These corrupt promoters meticulously planned their schemes down to the last detail, except for the possibility that they were walking into an undercover operation,” said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “This joint law enforcement effort is a stark warning to those who embark on securities fraud schemes that we may be listening and we may be watching.”
Whether the SEC and FBI were performing similar stings in the corrupt worlds of HYIPs, autosurfs and 2×2 matrix cyclers as promoted on Ponzi forums was not immediately clear. The Justice Department, however, has made it clear in court filings that it is infiltrating criminal forums and is using undercover operatives.
The U.S. Secret Service also has made it clear that it is using undercover operatives in its investigations of corrupt enterprises such as HYIPs, autosurfs and 2×2 matrix cyclers.
Read the SEC’s statement:
Read the statement of U.S. Attorney Ferrer and remarks from the FBI: