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A former Beverly Hills stockbroker was found guilty on July 12 of committing a stock manipulation scheme and faces decades in federal prison.
A jury found Todd Ficeto, 52, guilty of 18 federal criminal charges related to a scheme to increase the reported profits of hedge funds. The scheme resulted in investors losing approximately $200 million.
Ficeto was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, seven counts of securities fraud, two counts of investment adviser fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy, five counts of unlawful money transactions, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of making false statements.
The defendant was formerly president of the Beverly Hills-based Hunter World Markets, which he co-owned with Florian Wilhelm Jürgen Homm, a fugitive who was indicted in March 2013 on charges of securities fraud and wire fraud.
Between September 2004 and September 2007, Homm purchased billions of shares of United States-based penny stocks through Hunter World Markets. Ficeto facilitated the purchases. Homm was also founder and chief investment officer of Absolute Capital Management Holdings, an investment advisor that managed eight hedge funds known as the Absolute Funds.
Ficeto and Homm fraudulently manipulated the penny stocks to artificially increase their prices and to exaggerate the profitability of the Absolute Capital hedge funds. As a result, the co-conspirators sold shares of the penny stocks at the inflated prices to the hedge funds.
The stock price inflation helped Homm and Ficeto overstate the performance of the hedge funds, which in turn generated increased fees and other compensation. The co-conspirators then used the inflated performance figures to encourage investments from new, unsuspecting victims.
Ficeto was also accused of laundering the illicit proceeds by sending nearly $10 million to an account in the Cook Islands. As the scheme unraveled, Homm abruptly resigned from the firm in the middle of the night in September 2007, according to court documents. He was later arrested on fraud charges but fled after posting bail. He is believed to be living in Germany and is considered a fugitive.
United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips scheduled an Oct. 7 sentencing hearing for Ficeto. Each securities fraud charge and conspiracy to commit securities fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in federal prison. The money laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and each charge of investment adviser fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements carry five-year prison sentences.
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