Punishing and Reporting Fraudulent Investment Activity Online
Reporting Internet Investment Fraud
The SEC is in charge of tracking fraud
If you believe that you have been the victim of a securities-related fraud, through the Internet or otherwise, or if you believe that any person or entity may have violated or is currently violating the federal securities laws, you can submit a complaint using the SEC's online complaint form.
Punishing Investment Scammers
The SEC actively investigates allegations of Internet investment fraud and, in many cases, has taken quick action to stop scams. We've also coordinated with federal and state criminal authorities to put Internet fraudsters in jail. Here's a sampling of recent cases in which the SEC took action to fight Internet fraud:
Francis A. Tribble and Sloane Fitzgerald, Inc. sent more than six million unsolicited e-mails, built bogus web sites, and distributed an online newsletter over a ten-month period to promote two small, thinly traded "microcap" companies. Because they failed to tell investors that the companies they were touting had agreed to pay them in cash and securities, the SEC sued both Tribble and Sloane to stop them from violating the law again and imposed a $15,000 penalty on Tribble. Their massive spamming campaign triggered the largest number of complaints to the SEC's online Enforcement Complaint Center.
Charles O. Huttoe and twelve other defendants secretly distributed to friends and family nearly 42 million shares of Systems of Excellence Inc., known by its ticker symbol "SEXI." Huttoe drove up the price of SEXI shares through false press releases claiming non-existent multi-million dollar sales, an acquisition that had not occurred, and revenue projections that had no basis in reality. He also bribed co-defendant SGA Goldstar to tout SEXI to subscribers of SGA Goldstar's online "Whisper Stocks" newsletter. The SEC obtained court orders freezing Huttoe's assets and those of various others who participated in the scheme or who received fraud proceeds. Six people, including Huttoe and Theodore R. Melcher, Jr., the author of the online newsletter, were also convicted of criminal violations. Both Huttoe and Melcher were sentenced to federal prison. The SEC has thus far recovered approximately $11 million in illegal profits from the various defendants.
Matthew Bowin recruited investors for his company, Interactive Products and Services, in a direct public offering done entirely over the Internet. He raised $190,000 from 150 investors. But instead of using the money to build the company, Bowin pocketed the proceeds and bought groceries and stereo equipment. The SEC sued Bowin in a civil case, and the Santa Cruz, CA District Attorney's Office prosecuted him criminally. He was convicted of 54 felony counts and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
IVT Systems solicited investments to finance the construction of an ethanol plant in the Dominican Republic. The Internet solicitations promised a return of 50% or more with no reasonable basis for the prediction. Their literature contained lies about contracts with well known companies and omitted other important information for investors. After the SEC filed a complaint, they agreed to stop breaking the law.
Gene Block and Renate Haag were caught offering "prime bank" securities, a type of security that doesn't even exist. They collected over $3.5 million by promising to double investors' money in four months. The SEC has frozen their assets and stopped them from continuing their fraud.
Daniel Odulo was stopped from soliciting investors for a proposed eel farm. Odulo promised investors a "whopping 20% return," claiming that the investment was "low risk." When he was caught by the SEC, he consented to the court order stopping him from breaking the securities laws.