Two Suffolk men who are among more than a dozen people accused of operating a $147 million pump-and-dump stock scheme out of so-called boiler rooms on Long Island pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and other crimes.
Ronald Hardy, 43, of Port Jefferson, and McArthur Jean, 34, of Dix Hills, admitted that from April 2014 to July 2017 they and others defrauded investors by artificially driving up stock prices, then selling shares they already owned for a profit.
“We did so at the expense of investors,” Jean, who was a salesman, told U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert in Central Islip.
More than 100 investors nationwide, many elderly, lost money in the scheme, according to federal prosecutors. None of them came to court Wednesday.
Of 16 people charged in the scheme, 10, including Hardy and Jean, have pleaded guilty, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.
According to prosecutors, the group operated two “boiler rooms” — one in Melville called My Street Research and Power Traders Press, the other in Plainview called Elite Stock Research.
The government charged that the corporate insiders — called “orchestrators” by the SEC — provided publicly traded penny stocks at below-market value and paid the boiler rooms to execute the schemes, artificially “pumping” up the price through trading while priming customers for the “dump.”
A boiler room is an operation from which high-pressure salespeople use telephone banks to call potential investors to peddle securities.
The government said Hardy, Jean and their cohorts manipulated five publicly traded stocks — National Waste Management Holdings, CES Synergies, Grilled Cheese Truck, Hydrocarb Energy Corp., and Intelligent Content Enterprises.
Hardy, a manager of the boiler room that operated in Melville, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and five counts of securities fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charge.
Hardy, who currently works in construction, agreed to return $2.2 million in what Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Hein said were ill-gotten gains.
Jean, a cold-caller at the same boiler room, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He faces up to five years in prison. He agreed to repay $110,246, but his lawyer, Steve Brounstein of Brooklyn, said Jean was broke.
“But my client, quite frankly, he has nothing,” Brounstein told Judge Seybert.
The sentencings are scheduled for Jan. 11.
Jean, his attorney, Hardy, and his attorney, David Smith, all declined to comment as they left the courthouse Wednesday.
The other eight defendants who had pleaded guilty to various crimes for their roles in the scheme are:
Erik Matz, 44, of Mount Sinai, a manager at the Melville boiler room; boiler room cold-callers Brian Heepke, 36, of Farmingdale, Dennis Verderosa, 67, of Coram, Emin L. Cohen, 33, of Coram, Paul Ewer, 36, of Massapequa, Ashley Antos, 26, of Central Islip, Sergio Ramirez, 44, of East Meadow, and Robert Gilbert, 51, of Cold Spring Harbor, a cold-caller operating from his own company.