UPDATE: Metter has been arrested, along with the lawyers he used to issue his phony documents, and an international manhunt is underway for the PR firm that collaborated with him. Perhaps they should look in Dubai?
SEC charges WGCH’s Michael Metter with penny stock pump and dump scam. This was, I believe, the story that got Teri fired from Greenwich Time.[Teri Buhl has written that this isn’t so – of course, since she still doesn’t know why she was fired, I choose to believe she was fired for offending someone and Metter, the fat bully, is as good a candidate as any]. Here at FWIW we’ve encouraged Teri to write what she likes and I hope we’ll have her report on this soon. In the meantime, here’s to you, Greenwich Time.
Washington D.C., May 5th 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged New York City-based Spongetech Delivery Systems Inc., an affiliate, and five people involved in a massive pump-and-dump scheme that deceived investors into believing they were buying stock in a highly successful company.
–>The SEC alleges that Spongetech CEO Michael Metter and another senior executive, Steven Moskowitz, hyped fictional customers and grossly exaggerated sales figures through dozens of bogus press releases and fraudulent SEC filings to pump up demand for stock in Spongetech, a company that sells soap-filled sponges. After flooding the market with the false information to fraudulently inflate the stock price, Metter, Moskowitz, and Spongetech dumped approximately 2.5 billion shares by illegally selling them to the public through affiliated entities in unregistered transactions. They spent portions of their illicit profits in highly visible sponsorship deals with professional sports teams to further create the aura that Spongetech was a well-known and prosperous business.
The SEC suspended trading in Spongetech stock on Oct. 5, 2009, due to questions about the accuracy of the company’s press releases and SEC filings. In today’s enforcement action, Spongetech is accused of obstructing the SEC’s investigation by producing phony sales documents in an attempt to legitimize the make-believe customers it hyped to the public. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York today announced a parallel criminal action in the matter.
“Spongetech used a menu of manipulative strategies to perpetuate this scheme, including fake sales orders and public statements as well as obstruction of the SEC’s investigation,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We will utilize all available means, including referral to criminal authorities, to prosecute those who attempt to thwart our investigations.”
Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Investors were deceived into believing that Spongetech was a successful business, while Spongetech and its senior executives were illegally dumping shares into the market.”
Two of Spongetech’s former attorneys — Jack Halperin and Joel Pensley — and stock promoter George Speranza are also charged in the SEC’s complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. RM Enterprises International Inc., an affiliate through which Spongetech dumped shares, is also charged.
According to the SEC’s complaint, after several years of relatively little business with a single customer comprising the bulk of Spongetech’s limited sales, Metter and Moskowitz began to paint a more promising and misleading picture of Spongetech’s business. Beginning in approximately April 2007, Spongetech issued dozens of phony press releases touting increasingly larger, yet fictitious, sales orders and revenue. The press releases fraudulently exaggerated the demand for pre-soaped sponges by referencing millions of dollars in sales orders, business, and revenue from five primary customers that purportedly accounted for 99 percent of Spongetech’s business, yet none of those customers actually existed.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that Metter, Moskowitz, Spongetech, and RM Enterprises used false and baseless attorney opinion letters by Pensley and Halperin to distribute shares of Spongetech to the public. Metter, Moskowitz, and Spongetech also used false and misleading attorney opinion letters — forged in Pensley’s name and in the name of a fictitious lawyer, David Bomart — which were transmitted to Spongetech’s transfer agents. The SEC further alleges that Speranza created websites and rented unoccupied office space for the fictional customers in an attempt to legitimize them.