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Two Defendants in Shell Company Stock Hijacking Case, Mark Miller and Christopher Rajkaran, Set to Plead Guilty – NBC New York

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  • Mark Allen Miller and Christopher James Rajkaran are set to plead guilty in a case where they are charged in a scheme to hijack dormant shell companies and fraudulently pump up their stock shares.
  • A third defendant, Saeid Jaberian, remains on track to stand trial in the case, which involves four penny-stock companies traded on the over-the-counter market.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission separately has sued Miller in connection with the alleged scam.
  • Miller dropped an effort to take control of a Florida shell company, New World Gold, shortly after the indictment and the SEC suit filing.

Two of the three men criminally charged with a brazen scheme to hijack dormant shell companies and fraudulently pump up their stock shares are now set to plead guilty in the case in October, court records reveal.

One of the defendants, Christopher James Rajkaran of Queens, New York, and Guyana, on Monday had a change of plea hearing scheduled for Oct. 7 in Minnesota federal court, records show.

A judge last week denied Rajkaran’s latest effort to be released from a Minnesota jail on bail, saying he “poses a serious risk of nonappearance” in court. Rajkaran’s lawyer declined to comment Tuesday.

The other defendant, Mark Allen Miller, who is free on a $25,000 unsecured personal recognizance bond, is scheduled to plead guilty on Oct. 14 in the same court, according to a change of plea filing last week.

Miller’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Miller, a general contractor who lives in Breezy Point, Minnesota, and Rajkaran previously pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and wire fraud.

Their change of plea notices do not say what crimes they will plead guilty to.

The third defendant in the case, Saeid Jaberian, remains on track, for now, to stand trial.

Jaberian, a Minnesota resident who also is known as Andre Jaberian, has pleaded not guilty to the same charges as the other two men and is free on an unsecured $25,000 bond.

The trio was charged in June with a grand jury indictment that accused them of using fake resignation letters purporting to be from other people to seize control of four shell companies — Digitiliti, Encompass Holdings, Bell Buckle Holdings, and Utilicraft Aerospace Industries — from 2017 through 2019.

The indictment says that Miller and Jaberian, as well as an unidentified person related to Miller, actually became the nominal CEOs and presidents of the targeted companies.

The men are accused of then using the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR public filing system and phony press releases to inflate the share prices of those companies by claiming they had new business opportunities. The companies actually had no significant operations or revenue, the indictment says.

A court filing says the men bought millions of shares of stock in the companies, in many cases for far less than a penny per share, which then were sold on the over-the-counter market for profits of as much as 900%.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota — who declined to comment Tuesday on the scheduled plea hearings for Miller and Rajkaran — previously has said the three men are believed to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit profits.

Jaberian’s lawyer said in a court filing in late August that “at a future trial, Jaberian’s defense will require asserting that Miller tricked him” into unwittingly participating in a scheme to hijack a dormant shell company.

The SEC in June separately sued Miller in a civil case that accuses him of “a fraudulent scheme to target at least seven inactive penny-stock companies … by hijacking five of the companies and causing them to issue false and misleading statements, and by falsely promoting the [companies] with the intention of profiting from a ‘pump and dump’ of the stock.”

Those inactive companies allegedly targeted by Miller in the SEC complaint included the four identified in the criminal indictment, as well as Strategic Asset Leasing, Simulated Environment Concepts, and Bebida Beverage.

At the time he was indicted, Miller was involved in an effort to seize control of a Florida penny-stock company, New World Gold Corp., which is not named as one of his alleged targets in either the criminal case or the SEC’s civil case.

Miller voluntarily dropped a lawsuit he had filed in Florida as part of his effort less than two weeks after CNBC reported his involvement with New World Gold.

New World Gold’s share price has cratered from a high of $0.0275 per share on June 3 — two weeks before news of Miller’s criminal case broke — to $0.0092 per share as of Tuesday afternoon.

NWGC shares had dropped more than 47% in trading by late Tuesday, with more than 81 million shares changing hands.

The company’s purported Twitter feed on Tuesday afternoon disclosed that its credentials had been revoked by the OTC Markets Group, which organizes the listing of over-the-counter stocks on three marketplaces, due to “conflicting statements in the disclosure and application materials” filed by New World Gold.

Those materials “related to the timeline and validity of your appointment as Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Company,” OTC Markets wrote in an email to the purported CEO of New World Gold, Robert Honigford.

A message CNBC sent New World Gold seeking comment to the email address listed in a press release announcing the termination of its OTC Markets account was not immediately answered.

OTC Markets Group declined to comment on New World Gold but confirmed the authenticity of the email quoted in the press release linked to the tweet.


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Judge Eyes Shorter Sentence for Ex-NYC Jails Union Boss – NBC New York

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The former union boss for the nation’s largest correction officers’ union might have gotten too harsh a prison sentence when he was ordered to spend nearly five years behind bars for corruption convictions, a judge said.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, who sentenced Seabrook to four years and 10 months in prison in early 2019, said in a ruling Friday that the length of Norman Seabrook’s prison term deserves a second look. He noted disparities in the sentence given to Seabrook, who is Black, and co-conspirators who are white.

But he also said in a written ruling that the former head of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association did not deserve a new trial after his 2018 conviction on conspiracy and honest service wire fraud charges.

Prosecutors said he accepted $60,000 in bribes in 2014 to funnel $20 million in union funds to a risky hedge fund. All but $1 million was lost. Seabrook has said there was no evidence he ever intended to “lose a dime” of union members’ money.

Seabrook, 62, is scheduled for a July 2025 release from the Beckley Correctional Center in Beckley, West Virginia. He was arrested in June 2016 after he’d been a powerbroker in New York City for more than two decades, representing guards in the city’s 10,000-inmate jail system.

In October 2021, Seabrook asked Hellerstein to grant him a new trial on several grounds including ineffective assistance of counsel and unjust rulings against him, which Hellerstein said in his Friday ruling all fall “well short of the mark.”

But Hellerstein said Seabrook’s claims that his sentence was disproportionately harsher than the sentences his co-conspirators received “may possess merit.”

The judge noted that one co-conspirator, Murray Huberfeld, who is white and was originally sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding his own investment company, was ultimately given seven months in custody after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the amount of financial harm his crimes had done needed to be measured differently that it had when he received the sentence of over two years.

“The result is a significant disparity of sentences, an appearance of arbitrariness, and potential disrespect of the community because of the appearance of racial differentiation,” Hellerstein wrote.


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Tesla Should Accept That It Violated Labor Laws If Elon Musk Is Serious About Inviting the UAW to Organize Workers, Union Chief Ray Curry Says – NBC New York

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  • Tesla should accept that it violated labor laws if Elon Musk is serious about inviting the UAW to organize workers, union chief Ray Curry said.
  • Curry said that such an action would be a “good faith effort” and “demonstrate a commitment to the workers of the facility” in Fremont, California.
  • “The UAW stole millions from workers, whereas Tesla has made many workers millionaires (via stock grants). Subtle, but important difference.”

If Tesla CEO Elon Musk is serious about welcoming organizing efforts of the company’s U.S. workforce, the automaker should rehire a fired employee and stop attempting to overturn a ruling that it violated federal labor laws, said an automotive union leader.

United Auto Workers President Ray Curry said that such actions would be a “good faith effort” and “demonstrate a commitment to the workers of the facility” in Fremont, California.

In 2018, Musk tweeted a comment that was found to have violated federal labor laws after Tesla had already fired a union activist, Richard Ortiz. The National Labor Relations Board ultimately ordered Tesla to rehire the employee and to have Musk delete the tweet, which they saw as threatening workers’ compensation.

Tesla is appealing the administrative court’s decision, however.

Curry spoke on Tuesday during an Automotive Press Association webinar. His remarks followed more provocative tweets by Musk earlier in the day. The CEO, who has a following of 79.5 million on Twitter, wrote: “The UAW stole millions from workers, whereas Tesla has made many workers millionaires (via stock grants). Subtle, but important difference.”

The Detroit-based union is under federal oversight through a court-approved monitor as part of a settlement between the UAW and the government following a multiyear corruption probe that sent 15 people to prison, including two recent UAW presidents and three Fiat Chrysler executives.

The investigation uncovered years of bribery and kickback schemes involving millions of dollars and several top union leaders.

Earlier this month, Musk said on Twitter that he was “inviting” the UAW to try and organize employees at his company’s plant in Fremont. “Tesla will do nothing to stop them,” he wrote.

Curry said the union “definitely would welcome that opportunity, but clearly know that there’s some current appeals that are out there.”

United Auto Workers President Ray Curry speaks at the General Motors Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant on November 17, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

Nic Antaya | Getty Images

United Auto Workers President Ray Curry speaks at the General Motors Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant on November 17, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

“A key piece out of all of this is not the whim of a tweet or anything else, an exchange between the UAW and Tesla, it’s about the workers in those locations having a voice inside of their workplace. That’s the most important part of this whole process,” Curry said.

Musk’s open invitation to the UAW on March 3 followed Musk earlier in the day tweeting a YouTube video that he says “helps explain why former UAW members who work at Tesla are not huge fans of UAW.” The clip was published in 2010 by the World Socialist Web Site channel on YouTube.

In the video, workers at the NUMMI plant, which would later become the Fremont Tesla plant, are seen complaining that a union member was prevented from recording a UAW meeting in the local union hall.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.




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Accused Bitcoin Launderer Heather Morgan in Plea Talks With Prosecutors, Court Documents Say – NBC New York

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  • Federal prosecutors said they were in plea negotiations with a New York woman recently arrested with her husband on charges of trying to launder $4.5 billion worth of bitcoin stolen in a hack.
  • The talks were cited in a request by prosecutors asking a judge to postpone by 40 days a hearing for Heather “Razzlekhan” Morgan, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
  • Morgan was arrested with her husband “Dutch” Lichtenstein on Feb. 8 in their Manhattan apartment.
  • Prosecutors allege that the couple illegally tried to hide the source of almost 120,000 bitcoin stolen during the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange.

Federal prosecutors on Monday said they were in plea negotiations with a New York woman recently arrested with her husband on charges of trying to launder $4.5 billion worth of stolen bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The talks were cited in a request by prosecutors asking a judge to postpone by 40 days Friday’s scheduled status hearing for the woman, Heather “Razzlekhan” Morgan, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutors said in a court filing that the postponement would “facilitate … plea discussions between the parties,” as well as give them time to assemble and share evidence that could be used against Morgan with her attorneys.

Morgan, 31, was arrested with her husband, 34-year-old Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, on Feb. 8 in their Manhattan apartment. The arrests were on the same day the Justice Department has said it seized more than $3.6 billion worth of bitcoin that was part of the alleged laundering scheme.

Prosecutors allege that the couple illegally tried to hide, through a complex series of transactions, the source of almost 120,000 bitcoin stolen during the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange. Neither of the defendants is charged with the hack itself.

At the time of the hack, the stolen bitcoin was worth $70 million. But the value of bitcoin has soared since then.

Morgan’s lawyers do not oppose the postponement of her hearing, according to Monday’s filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Prosecutors disclosed in court on Feb. 28 that they were discussing a possible “resolution” of Morgan’s criminal case to avoid a trial.

But until Monday, they had not publicly used the words “plea discussions” to describe those talks with her lawyers.

Morgan’s lead attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing.

It is common for prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss possible plea deals in criminal cases, and for those discussions to lead to postponements of court hearings.

However, Morgan’s case is unusual for the relatively short time between her arrest and the disclosure of plea talks.

Morgan, an aspiring rapper and entrepreneur, is free on a $3 million bond.

Lichtenstein has been in jail since his arrest and has been denied bail.

Netflix last month announced that a series on the couple will be directed by Chris Smith, who was executive producer of the company’s Covid pandemic smash hit “Tiger King.”


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