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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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Minnesota Man Mark Miller Moves Toward Possible Guilty Plea in Shell Company Hijack Case, Court Filing Reveals – NBC New York

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  • A Minnesota man criminally charged with committing securities fraud by hijacking dormant shell companies has taken a step that suggests he will plead guilty, a new court filing revealed.
  • The lawyer for Mark Miller told a judge he will waive pretrial motions and will request a change of plea hearing date.
  • MIller is one of three men charged by federal prosecutors with an alleged scheme that ran from 2017 through 2019 in which they purportedly used fake resignation letters to seize control of four shell companies.

A Minnesota man criminally charged with committing securities fraud by hijacking dormant shell companies has taken a step that suggests he will plead guilty, a new court filing revealed.

A lawyer for the man, Mark Miller, told a judge in a letter filed Tuesday that Miller will not submit pre-trial motions in his criminal case, and asked to be excused from a scheduled hearing on such motions next week in Minnesota federal court.

Miller’s lawyer said in his letter he would contact Judge Kate Menendez’s chambers “for a change of plea hearing date.” The attorney also said he met with Miller to discuss a “plea offer” from prosecutors in the case.

Pre-trial motions are routinely filed by criminal defendants who plan to go to trial.

Miller, a 43-year-old general contractor who lives in the town of Breezy Point, previously pleaded not guilty in his case.

The fact that his lawyer plans to seek a “change of plea hearing” suggests Miller will change that plea to guilty.

The attorney, Robert Lengeling, did not immediately return requests for comment from CNBC.

Miller is one of three men charged by federal prosecutors in June with an alleged scheme that ran from 2017 through 2019 in which they purportedly used fake resignation letters to seize control of four shell companies. Prosecutors allege that the men then used the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR public filing system and bogus press releases to fraudulently “pump up” share prices by claiming new business opportunities.

The four shell companies targeted by the alleged conspiracy were Digitiliti, Encompass Holdings, Bell Buckle Holdings and Utilicraft Aerospace Industries.

A civil lawsuit filed against Miller in June by the Securities and Exchange Commission accuses him of a fraudulent scheme targeting “at least seven inactive penny-stock companies … by hijacking five of the companies.”

A lawyer for one of Miller’s co-defendants, Christopher James Rajkaran, on Wednesday notified the judge that Rajkaran also will not submit pre-trial motions.

The judge then cancelled the Sept. 15 motions hearings set for Miller and Rajkaran.

A third defendant, Saeid Jaberian, is still pursuing pre-trial motions in the case.

Jaberian’s lawyer said in a court filing in late August that he wants Jaberian to be tried separately from Miller and Rajkaran.

The lawyer said 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.

Prosecutors are opposing that request to have Jaberian tried separately.

Miller, Rajkaran and Jaberian are charged with 15 criminal counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud.

Lawyers of Rajkaran and Jaberian did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiries about whether the defendants will move toward changing their pleas as Miller appears to have done.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNBC previously reported that Miller had also attempted to seize control of a Florida penny-stock company, New World Gold, which is not named as having been one of his alleged targets in either the criminal case or a civil case filed by the SEC.

Miller had submitted a new motion in the lawsuit to take New World Gold just one day before being indicted in federal court.

He later dropped the lawsuit less than two weeks after CNBC reported his involvement with New World Gold.

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Rudy Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Foreign Campaign Contributions – NBC New York

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  • Igor Fruman, a former associate of embattled lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pleaded guilty to soliciting foreign campaign contributions in a New York federal court Friday.
  • The plea comes nearly two years after being charged with crimes that included making illegal donations to a pro-Trump political action campaign.
  • Fruman and his business partner Lev Parnas, a co-defendant in the same case, had worked with Giuliani in an effort to dig up dirt about President Joe Biden in Ukraine.
  • Giuliani, who has acted as Trump’s personal attorney, also faces an ongoing criminal investigation.

NEW YORK — Igor Fruman, a former associate of embattled lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pleaded guilty Friday to soliciting campaign contributions from a foreign national, nearly two years after being charged with crimes that included making illegal donations to a pro-Trump political action campaign.

Fruman and his business partner Lev Parnas, a co-defendant in the same case, had worked with Giuliani in an effort to dig up damaging information about President Joe Biden in Ukraine when Biden had emerged as a leading challenger to then-President Donald Trump.

The change-of-plea hearing in Manhattan federal court came as Giuliani, who has acted as Trump’s personal attorney, faces an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Giuliani, who denies any wrongdoing, served two terms as mayor of New York after heading that same prosecutors’ office for years.

The Ukraine-born Fruman was originally charged with 10 crimes.

But in court Friday, he agreed to plead guilty only to a single count related to soliciting U.S. campaign contributions from a foreign national as part of what prosecutors said was a bid to get state-issued recreational marijuana business licenses for a cannabis venture that ultimately never got off the ground.

Fruman said the money was solicited from a foreign businessman who was interested in investing in the cannabis company that Fruman and others were pursuing.

The campaign donations were earmarked for government officials, both Republican and Democrat, in states moving to legalize marijuana.

“I deeply regret my actions and apologize to the court and the United States government for this conduct,” Fruman told Judge J. Paul Oetken, after admitting that he had known such campaign donations from foreigners were illegal under American law.

Protest against Donald Trump by Rise and Resist outside the U.S. District Court in New York, September 10. 2021.

Kevin Breuninger | CNBC

Protest against Donald Trump by Rise and Resist outside the U.S. District Court in New York, September 10. 2021.

Fruman’s plea came in an agreement with prosecutors that led to the other charges being dropped, but he has not agreed to a deal that would compel him to cooperate with federal prosecutors in any ongoing investigation.

His sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 21, and he remains free on bond. The plea agreement stipulates that federal sentencing guidelines suggest that Fruman receive a prison term of between three years and three years and 10 months.

But Oetken is not bound by those guidelines.

Fruman’s lawyer Todd Blanche declined to answer questions from reporters as he left the courthouse with Fruman in lower Manhattan after the plea hearing.

In a statement to CNBC Friday evening, Blanche said that Fruman “is not cooperating with the government and has determined that this is the fairest and best way to put the past two years of his life behind him.”

“He intends to continue to work hard, as he has his entire life, and raise his family in this country that he loves,” Blanche’s statement said.

Parnas and a third defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, who have both pleaded not guilty, are scheduled to go on trial in the same courthouse on Oct. 12 for charges related to allegedly using straw campaign donors to obscure the source of donated money, and soliciting campaign contributions from foreigners.

A fourth defendant, David Correia, pleaded guilty last October to misleading investors in a company he had started with Parnas, a firm called Fraud Guarantee.

Both men were accused of using more than $2 million in investor money on personal expenses instead of the business.

Giuliani received hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from Fraud Guarantee.

At his guilty plea, Correia admitted lying to federal election officials about the source of a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump PAC. Instead of coming from a natural gas firm, as Correia claimed, the money actually had come from a mortgage granted to Fruman.

Correia, who likewise had no cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors, in February was sentenced to one year in prison.


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Lawyer Who Allegedly Advised Clinton Campaign Charged With Lying to FBI in Tip About Possible Trump-Russia Bank Link – NBC New York

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  • A lawyer who allegedly advised the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was indicted Thursday on a charge of lying to the FBI.
  • Federal prosecutors say Michael Sussmann, then a partner at Perkins Coie, lied when he offered a tip that year about a possible secret electronic channel between former President Donald Trump’s company and a Russian bank.
  • The charge against Sussmann was filed as part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of a prior probe by the FBI and former special counsel Robert Mueller into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

A lawyer who allegedly advised the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was indicted Thursday on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Federal prosecutors say Michael Sussmann, then a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, lied when he offered a tip that same year about the possible secret electronic channel between former President Donald Trump’s company and a Russian bank.

The charge against Sussmann was filed as part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of a prior probe by the FBI and former special counsel Robert Mueller into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Then-Attorney General William Barr put Durham in charge of the investigation in early 2019 after Trump had railed about the Russia inquiry for several years.

Sussmann, a 57-year-old former federal prosecutor, has reportedly denied working for the Clinton campaign. He is accused in the indictment of lying to the FBI’s general counsel during a September 2016 meeting by falsely stating he was not representing any legal client as he relayed the information about a possible electronic link between the Trump Organization and the Alfa Bank.

“In fact, Sussmann assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two clients, including a U.S. technology executive and the Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Durham’s office said in a statement announcing the indictment by a Washington, D.C., federal court grand jury.

The indictment says that beginning in July 2016, Sussmann worked with the tech executive, other cyber-researchers, and an American investigative firm to assemble data and documents that Sussman later gave the FBI and media.

“The technology executive, for his part, exploited his access to non-public data at multiple internet companies and enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract designed to identify the perpetrators of malicious cyber-attacks and protect U.S. national security,” Durham’s office said.

The indictment charges that those researchers mined that data “to establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ that would tie then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russia, and which the executive believed would please certain ‘VIPs,'” Durham’s office said.

Sussmann, his law firm and the technology executive also allegedly coordinated with members of Clinton’s campaign in those efforts, according to the indictment.

Durham’s office noted in its statement that after getting Sussmann’s tip, “The FBI ultimately determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and the Russia-based bank.”

Sussmann is due to appear in court as soon as Friday.

His profile page on the Perkins Coie website delivered a “page not found” message to viewers Thursday.

A Perkin Coie spokesman in an email to CNBC later Thursday said, “In light of the Special Counsel’s action today, Michael Sussmann, who has been on leave from the firm, offered his resignation from the firm in order to focus on his legal defense, and the firm accepted it.”

Sussmann’s lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth of Latham & Watkins, in a statement said, “Michael Sussmann was indicted today because of politics, not facts.”

“The Special Counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge,” the defense attorneys said. “This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution.”

The lawyers said that Sussman, who has dedicated his career to national security and cyber security, “met with FBI General Counsel James Baker on behalf of a cyber expert client to inform him that a major news organization was about to run a story about cyber connections between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization and to give him a copy of the information on which that story was based.”

“Mr. Sussmann met with Mr. Baker because he and his client believed that the information raised national security concerns,” the lawyers said. “Stripped of its political bluster, innuendo, and irrelevant details, what is striking about the allegations in the indictment is how few of them actually relate to the charge the Special Counsel chose to bring.”

They added that Durham is “bringing a false statement charge based on an oral statement allegedly made five years ago to a single witness that is unrecorded and unobserved by anyone else.”

“The Department of Justice would ordinarily never bring such a baseless case,” the lawyers said. “Nor can the Special Counsel ever prove that any of this mattered. Regardless of who Mr. Sussmann’s clients were, or even if he had no clients at all, none of that would have mattered.”

— CNBC’s Michael Calia contributed to this report.


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