SEC Charges Two Florida Men, Florida Company in Penny Stock Fraud Allegedly Targeted at Senior Investors
On November 15th, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against five individuals. Several companies were also listed in the complaint. Specifically, securities fraud charges were brought against:
- Mark Burnett of Rosslyn, New York
- Jeffrey Miller of Bellmore, New York
- Christian Romandetti of Indialantic, Florida
- Frank Sarro of Palm Bay, Florida
- Anthony Vassallo of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey
Among the companies named in the complaint was First Choice Healthcare Solutions, Inc., a so-called ‘penny stock’ headquartered in Melbourne, Florida. The SEC alleges that these men used this company and illegal ‘pump-and-dump’ tactics to defraud elderly and unsophisticated investors. Here our Miami investment fraud attorneys provide an overview of the SEC’s complaint.
Penny Stock Fraud: First Choice Healthcare Solutions (FCHS)
According to the SEC, First Choice Healthcare Solutions, Inc. (FCHS) was used to dupe approximately 100 investors out of at least $3.3 million. Formed in 2007, FCHS operates five medical practices across the state of Florida. The company generally provides orthopedic care and spinal cord treatment.
In 2010, Christian Romandetti of Brevard County, Florida became the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of FCHS. From 2010 to 2015, he worked with his co-conspirators to acquire nearly 6 million shares of the company. In many cases, these shares were obtained at a below market price. The shares were then deposited in more than one dozen brokerage accounts that were owned by the men. The SEC alleges that the men made misrepresentations to the brokerage firms regarding how they obtained their shares of this company.
Penny Stock Fraud
Beginning in 2013, the SEC charges that the defendants began employing aggressive sales tactics to pump up the share price of FCHS. Typically, this involved using a New York-based boiler room to make cold calls to elderly and unsophisticated investors. In promoting the company to unsuspecting investors, the men made material misrepresentations.
Eventually, through the aggressive and fraudulent sales tactics, the share price of FCHS increased. The SEC believes that they were able to get the First Choice Healthcare Solutions share price up from $1.00 to $3.40. When they eventually dumped all of their shares, the men were able to walk away from the company with $3 million in ill-gotten profits while investors were stuck with serious losses.
The SEC is seeking all sanctions that would be appropriate in this case. Among other things, this includes a permanent injunction, the disgorgement of all ill-gotten profits, additional civil penalties, and a permanent bar from penny stock offerings.
Contact Our Miami, FL Securities Fraud Lawyers Today
At Carlson & Associates, P.A., our Miami securities fraud attorneys are committed to providing strong, effective legal representation to investors throughout South Florida. To get a fully confidential review of your case, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Miami law office today at (305) 372-9700.