KABOOM! SEC, Feds Target Alleged Money-Laundering Operation In Costa Rica; 6 People From Various Countries Charged Criminally; 7 Charged Civilly In Coordinated Probe Of ‘Pump And Dump’ Schemes

BULLETIN: Two days after Southern Florida’s top federal prosecutor warned that offshore fraudsters who targeted Americans had no safe haven, six people from various parts of the world who allegedly ran or contributed to a pump-and-dump scheme that used the services of a  money-laundering operation in Costa Rica have been charged criminally, authorities said.

The SEC, meanwhile, charged seven people civilly. An attorney has been charged both criminally and civilly, the SEC said. The cases were brought in the Southern District of Florida, which has been a hotbed of financial crime.

Defendants in the cases hail from Costa Rica, Great Britain, Canada, Israel and the United States, according to the SEC. The criminal charges include conspiracy to commit securities, mail and wire fraud; wire fraud; mail fraud; violating the securities regulation laws and obstruction of justice.

Jonathan R. Curshen, a convicted felon awaiting sentencing in an earlier securities and bribery scheme, has been charged both criminally and civilly in the new case. Curshen, 46, a dual U.S. and British citizen and the one-time “honorary counsel” of St. Kitts-Nevis to Costa Rica, presided over a Costa Rican company known as Red Sea Management Ltd.

Red Sea “effected fraudulent pump-and-dump schemes on behalf of its clients and laundered millions of dollars in illegal trading proceeds out of the United States to its clients overseas,” the SEC charged.

Also charged criminally and civilly were attorney Michael S. Krome, 49, of Lake Grove, N.Y; Ariav “Eric” Weinbaum, 37, of an unspecified city in Israel; Yitzchak Zigdon, 47, of Tel Aviv; Ronny Morales Salazar, 39, of San Jose, Costa Rica; and Robert L. Weidenbaum, 44, of Coral Gables, Fla.

Krome and Weidenbaum (as distinct from Weinbaum) are Americans.

Weinbaum, according to records, has dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship. He previously lived in Boca Raton, Fla., but now is living in Israel, the SEC said. The SEC alleged that Weinbaum has a “network of operatives he uses to perpetrate pump-and-dump stock manipulations.”

Zigdon is an “Israeli accountant and the business partner of Weinbaum,” the SEC said.

David C. Ricci of San Jose, Costa Rica, was charged civilly, and already has settled with the SEC. Ricci is a citizen of Canada who was living in Costa Rica, according to the SEC charging documents.

“This group of illicit stock promoters sought to hide their scheme behind offshore entities, but their misconduct was exposed by the excellent cooperation of law enforcement agencies here and abroad,” said Cheryl Scarboro, associate director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

On Feb. 16, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida warned offshore scammers and criminals that the United States would not tolerate crime aimed from abroad at its citizens.

“International law enforcement cooperation eliminates safe havens for those who cheat American citizens from overseas,” Ferrer said.

“Curshen directed Red Sea to open numerous nominee brokerage accounts with U.S. and Canadian broker-dealers to enable the firm to engage in coordinated manipulative trading and conceal its illegal activity,” the SEC charged, alleging that Ricci and Salazar had trading authority over the nominee accounts.

The scheme for which the charges were brought centered on a “sham” company known as CO2 Tech Ltd., which purported to be in the business of reversing global warming, the SEC said.

Purportedly based in London, the company claimed to have a relationship with Boeing, the aircraft-maker, and traded on the Pink Sheets.

“There were no communications, correspondence or understandings between CO2 Tech and Boeing,” the SEC said flatly, alleging that CO2 Tech was a “sham” that had no “significant assets or operations.”

Krome, the lawyer, “issued a fraudulent opinion letter” to enable Weinbaum and Zigdon to advance the scheme, and “Weinbaum hired Weidenbaum” to distribute false information through websites, spam e-mails and fax blasts, the SEC charged.

“Weidenbaum enlisted a group of stock promoters who then executed illegal ‘matched orders’ with Red Sea’s nominee brokerage accounts in order to ‘jump-start’ the market and increase the price of the stock,” the SEC charged. “As a result of the false media campaign and the illegal matched orders, the market price of CO2 Tech stock increased 81 percent increase in one day and trading volume increased 1,573 percent.”

Ricci and Salazar sold the stock through Red Sea, and the “coordinated misconduct enabled stock sales at artificially inflated prices for profits of more than $7 million at the expense of unsuspecting investors,” the SEC charged.

Cooperating in the case were the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FINRA, the Costa Rican Police, the British Columbia Securities Commission, the Israel Securities Authority, the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority and The City of London Police Department, the SEC said.

In recent days, federal prosecutors also have filed charges against more than 100 people associated with Armenian Power, an international organized-crime group with ties to Russia and Armenia.

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4 Responses to “KABOOM! SEC, Feds Target Alleged Money-Laundering Operation In Costa Rica; 6 People From Various Countries Charged Criminally; 7 Charged Civilly In Coordinated Probe Of ‘Pump And Dump’ Schemes”

  1. I wonder if this is the same Jonathan R. Curshen:
    From 2008, a similar pump-n-dump scheme.

  2. […] that federal agents — working with law-enforcement partners worldwide — had broken up a fraud ring operating in part from Florida, Costa Rica and […]

  3. […] Federal agents have arrested three new defendants in the alleged Red Sea Management stock-manipulation scheme. The arrests occurred in three U.S. states last week, and one of the new defendants already was in […]

  4. […] has warned for months that white-collar fraudsters operating in the region had no safe haven either onshore or […]