Canadians named in US fraud case arrested in Thailand

NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - Police in Thailand have arrested the last two suspects in what American officials are calling one of the biggest international penny stock frauds ever investigated.

In a statement Tuesday, the United States (US) Attorney's Office said Sandy Winick, 55, and Gregory Curry, 63, both Canadians, were apprehended in the Thai capital Bangkok where they face extradition proceedings.

Winick is the alleged kingpin of the securities fraud that is said to have bilked investors in some 35 countries of more than US$140 million (S$180 million).

A total of nine Canadians and Americans have been indicted in the case. Six were arraigned in US courts last week while a seventh was picked up in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Winick, the lead defendant, was arrested on Saturday, while Curry was collared on Tuesday, said the office of US Attorney Loretta Lynch.

According to the indictment against all nine suspects, the defendants fraudulently "pumped up" the share price of worthless penny stocks and then "dumped" billions of shares of those stocks by unloading them on unsuspecting investors worldwide.

According to explanatory documents released on Tuesday by the US Attorney's Office, the scam used social media to diffuse false information about the penny stocks, as well as bogus press releases and emails.

The indictees also allegedly operated "boiler room" call centers in at least four countries that induced penny-stock investors to pay advance fees that the defendants promised would enable them to sell their stocks and recover losses.

In fact, the fees were stolen.

"I tell you what, man... hitting the Americans would be like taking money from a baby," one of the defendants was heard saying in an FBI wiretap.

Previously arrested were Curry's son Kolt Curry, 38, and Gregory Ellis, 46, both Canadians; and Americans Gary Kershner, 72, Joseph Manfredonia, 45, Cort Poyner, 44, Sonkram Roy Sahachaisere, 43, and William Seals, 51.

If convicted, the indictees face up to 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud, as well as time behind bars for impersonating an agent of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US tax collection agency.