(HedgeCo.Net)The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a day trader based in the Philadelphia area with participating in a scheme to access the brokerage accounts of more than 100 unwitting victims and make unauthorized trades to artificially affect the stock prices of various companies.
The SEC alleges that Joseph P. Willner generated at least $700,000 in illicit profits by trading in the same securities in his own accounts and taking advantage of the artificial stock prices that resulted from the unauthorized trades placed in the victims’ accounts.
Willner’s activities were detected despite his efforts to disguise his real identity while communicating with at least one other individual through online direct messaging applications using a pseudonym, according to the SEC’s complaint. “Legal trading too hard” is among the online messages noted in the SEC’s complaint. To mask his payments to the other individual as part of a profit-sharing arrangement, Willner allegedly transferred proceeds of profitable trades to a digital currency company that converts U.S. dollars to Bitcoin and then transmitted the bitcoins as payment.
The SEC’s investigation is continuing.
“Account takeovers are an increasingly significant threat to retail investors, and it is exactly the type of fraud our new Cyber Unit is focusing on,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We are committing substantial resources to combating cyber-based threats to protect investors and our markets from intruders who manipulate the system for their own illicit gain.”