FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., May 2, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Florida man and 10 cohorts involved in two separate schemes to illegally sell stock, including one that sought to capitalize on circumstances in Haiti following the earthquake that destroyed much of the country's infrastructure in January 2010.
The SEC alleges that Kevin Sepe of Miami masterminded the schemes involving two microcap companies — Recycle Tech and HydroGenetics — with the help of three licensed attorneys and several others who collectively reaped illegal profits of more than $3.5 million. Aventura, Fla.-based attorney Ronny Halperin assisted Sepe in both schemes. The Recycle Tech scheme involved a promotional campaign to pump the price and volume of the purported home container building company's stock in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. The HydroGenetics scheme took millions of unregistered shares of the company — purportedly in the business of acquiring emerging alternative energy companies — and improperly converted its debt into free-trading shares that were dumped on the investing public.
Six of the 11 individuals involved have agreed to settlements ordering them and companies they own to collectively pay more than $3.2 million.
"Sepe, Halperin, and others chose to ignore the laws governing stock sales and play by their own set of rules," said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC's Miami Regional Office. "Some of these individuals were attorneys and corporate officers who should have known better, and we will continue to crack down on any such gatekeepers who put investors at risk with their harmful activities to manipulate the markets."
According to the SEC's complaint filed in federal court in Miami, Sepe and Halperin evaded registration requirements by converting backdated and fabricated promissory notes into unrestricted stock of Recycle Tech, quoted on the Pink Sheets. With help from Recycle Tech's CEO and president Ryan Gonzalez, they conducted a pump-and-dump scheme from January to March 2010 by enlisting the help of two promoters — Anthony Thompson and Jay Fung — who touted Recycle Tech in their newsletters. David Rees, a Utah-based attorney, became involved in the scheme when he drafted an improper legal opinion letter authorizing the issuance of unrestricted Recycle Tech shares.
The SEC alleges that the participants collectively made more than $1 million in illegal profits through the scheme, which touted that Recycle Tech signed a binding letter of intent to build up to 50 container homes in Haiti following the earthquake. However, Recycle Tech failed to disclose to investors that it had no funds, no finished container homes, and minimal operations. Sepe orchestrated, coordinated, and funded the scheme and sold Recycle Tech stock along with Halperin and Rees without any exemption from registering those securities with the SEC. Gonzalez, who lives in Miami, made the scheme possible by incorporating a sham private company, turning the public shell of that company into Recycle Tech through a reverse merger, and signing various fraudulent documents to authorize the issuance of Recycle Tech securities. Gonzalez also drafted and issued false press releases used to hype Recycle Tech stock. Thompson and Fung — through their firms OTC Solutions LLC and Pudong LLC — touted Recycle Tech in their newsletters without disclosing that they were selling shares or adequately disclosing the compensation they received for their touts.
According to the SEC's other complaint filed in Miami, Sepe and Halperin schemed with Miami-based attorney Melissa Rice and others to illegally issue and liquidate 90 million unregistered shares of HydroGenetics from April 2008 until at least June 2009. Sepe headed a group that purchased convertible debt of a South Florida publicly-held company. He then formed HydroGenetics and parsed out portions of the convertible debt to friends, family, and others who converted the debt to stock that they then sold publicly. Sepe sold HydroGenetics stock without any exemption from registration the securities with the SEC. Halperin was the HydroGenetics CEO and a director. He executed corporate resolutions to help issue millions of shares of HydroGenetics stock, including 11 million shares to his daughter who he told to sell it and funnel a portion of the illegal proceeds back to him. Rice assisted Sepe in converting convertible debt to unrestricted HydroGenetics shares, and wrote four opinion letters improperly opining that the Rule 144 safe harbor was applicable and the debt could be converted to unrestricted HydroGenetics shares. Rice also sold her shares of HydroGenetics stock.