The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced new charges arising from a New York-based boiler-room scheme, alleging that Benjamin Conde orchestrated the manipulation of millions of shares of Renewable Energy and Power, Inc. (“RBNW”), generating approximately $3.1 million in illegal proceeds.
The SEC alleges the fraudulent scheme began when Conde, a securities fraud recidivist, acquired large blocks of RBNW shares through convertible notes purchased from RBNW by Essex Global Investment Corp., an entity that Conde controlled. As alleged, from approximately March to July 2017, Conde paid a New York boiler room to promote RBNW stock to seniors and unsophisticated retail investors, fraudulently “pumping” the market price and trading volume of RBNW. According to the SEC’s complaint, Conde engaged in manipulative trading, including by coordinating trading on the opposite side of the boiler room victims through encrypted messaging, which further artificially raised RBNW’s market price. The SEC alleges that Conde sold more than 8 million shares of RBNW, generating millions in illicit profits. Conde allegedly disguised the source of his payments to the boiler room by making payments to an intermediary pursuant to fabricated invoices.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in Central Islip, New York, charges Conde the antifraud provisions of Sections 17(a)(1) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933 and the market manipulation and antifraud provisions of Sections 9(a)(1) and 10(b) of the Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c). The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains with interest, civil penalties, and a penny stock bar. Essex and Facultas Capital Management, Inc., Conde-controlled entities that received proceeds from the alleged fraud, were named as relief defendants.
The SEC’s charges today follow two related actions in which the same affiliated boiler rooms were used to carry out the alleged schemes. In July 2017, the SEC charged two boiler rooms and 13 individuals with bilking victims out of more than $10 million in penny stock scams, and in November 2018, the SEC charged one of the boiler rooms and four individuals with a separate manipulation that generated over $3.3 million in illegal profits. The SEC’s litigation in the two actions are continuing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York filed parallel criminal charges in these matters and in a parallel action filed today.
The SEC’s Retail Strategy Task Force and its Office of Investor Education and Advocacy encourage investors to check the background of anyone selling or offering them an investment using the free and simple search tool on Investor.gov.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Cecilia B. Connor and Andrew Elliott and supervised by Carolyn M. Welshhans and Amy L. Friedman, with assistance from Leigh Barrett. The SEC’s litigation will be handled by James Smith and Matthew Scarlato and supervised by Jan Folena. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.