A former stock broker was sentenced to prison today for his role in an extensive pump-and-dump stock manipulation scheme, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division , U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr. of the Northern District of Oklahoma, Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Division and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Richard Weber.
Joshua Wayne Lankford, 39, of Dallas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James H. Payne in the Northern District of Oklahoma to serve 84 months in prison. In addition to his prison term, Lankford was ordered to forfeit $250,000. Proceeds from forfeited assets will be used to partially restitute victims.
On Dec. 10, 2012, Lankford pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.
“Mr. Lankford and his co-conspirators took advantage of innocent investors to the tune of millions of dollars, pumping and dumping penny stocks without regard to anything but their wallets,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “As this case shows, stockbrokers and other professionals will be punished if they break the law. Lankford now faces substantial time in prison for his manipulation scheme.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice are committed to identifying and prosecuting criminals who defraud investors and steal their savings,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Pump and dump schemes like these have a devastating financial impact on the victims and undermine public confidence in our nation’s financial system.”
According to court documents and evidence presented at the 2010 trial, Lankford and his co-defendants manipulated the stocks of three companies: Deep Rock Oil & Gas Inc. and Global Beverage Solutions Inc., formerly known as Pacific Peak Investments, both of Tulsa, Okla., and National Storm Management Group Inc. of Glen Ellyn, Ill. The defendants devised and engaged in a scheme to defraud investors known as a “pump and dump,” in which they manipulated publicly traded penny stocks. A penny stock is a common stock that trades for less than $5 per share in the over the counter market, rather than on national exchanges. Lankford and his co-defendants executed the scheme by obtaining a majority of the free-trading shares of stock of the company they intended to manipulate, using fraudulent and deceptive means to acquire the stock and/or remove the trading restrictions on the shares they obtained.
“Stock manipulation and securities fraud are high investigative priorities of the FBI,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Finch. “This case is the result of a lengthy investigation which involved outstanding cooperation between the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations, and the SEC. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect investors and bring those who commit these types of fraud to justice.”
“Using fraud and deception to jeopardize the financial markets and launder funds are not victimless crimes,” said IRS-CI Chief Weber. “Mr. Lankford and his co-defendants thought they latched onto a clever scheme to reap a vast wealth of illegal profits. Today, justice has been served. IRS-CI works in close alliance with our law enforcement partners, and together we will hold those who engage in similar conduct accountable.”
According to court records, Lankford and other conspirators “parked” their shares with various nominees, such as friends, relatives or other entities that they owned and controlled. Subsequently, they engaged in coordinated trading in order to create the appearance of an emerging market for these stocks, after which they conducted massive promotional campaigns in which unsolicited fax and email “blasts” were sent to millions of recipients. According to evidence presented at the 2010 trial, these blasts touted the respective stocks without accurately disclosing who was paying for the promotions, omitted that the defendants intended to sell their shares, and induced unsuspecting legitimate investors to purchase stock in the companies. The defendants and their nominees obtained significant profits by selling large amounts of shares after they had artificially inflated the stock price. For each of the three manipulated stocks, the conspirators’ sell-off caused declines of the stock price and left legitimate investors holding stock of significantly reduced value.
According to Lankford’s guilty plea, he laundered $250,000 in proceeds derived from the stock manipulation scheme.
Evidence presented in the 2010 trial showed that the overall scheme resulted in illegal proceeds of more than $43 million from more than 17,000 investor victims.
Lankford was originally charged in a 24-count indictment unsealed on Feb. 10, 2009, against five defendants. Prior to trial, Lankford fled to Costa Rica, where he remained until he was extradited to the United States in May 2012. James Reskin, 54, of Louisville, Ky., was sentenced today to serve five years of probation for his role in the scheme. Co-defendants George David Gordon and Richard Clark, were convicted by a federal jury in May 2010 for their roles in the scheme. Gordon was sentenced to serve 188 months in prison, and Clark was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison. The fifth defendant, Dean Sheptycki, remains a fugitive.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Andrew Warren and Kevin Muhlendorf of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Depew for the Northern District of Oklahoma. The case is being investigated by IRS-CI and the FBI. The department wishes to thank the Securities and Exchange Commission, which referred the matter for prosecution. The department also wishes to thank the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Marshals Service for their work in securing Lankford’s extradition.
This case is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.