It's a $300 million share scam that stretches from the beachside mansions of Malibu to historic Palma de Majorca in Spain – to a small bank in tropical Rarotonga.
Beverly Hills stockbroker Todd Ficeto has been found guilty of 18 federal criminal charges for participating in a scheme to pump up the reported profits of hedge funds.
Much like the notorious Jordan Belfort who inspired the movie Wolf of Wall St, Ficeto made a fortune buying cheap "penny stocks" for his business partner, Florian Homm, then talking up the value of those companies to investors.
The two sold out before it all came crashing down, the US indictment reveals. Homm fled Majorca in the middle of the night, with US$1.2 million hidden in his underwear and luggage. He remains a fugitive.
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And Ficeto wired NZ$15m (in two tranches of US$5m) to his bank account at ANZ Cook Islands, before denying to US Securities and Exchange Commission investigators that he had any overseas bank account.
For a long time, Ficeto had lived the high life. His Facebook shows photos and videos from his family's beachfront apartment in Malibu, to exclusive Knightsbridge in London, to skiing Deer Valley, Utah. He transferred US$179,000 to buy a Ferrari, at one point.
Some of the dodgy companies the conspirators "pumped and dumped" included a baked goods drive-thru franchise, a miniature heart pump developer, an aerospace contractor, a live kickboxing promotion company, and the Berman Center, which marketed the skills and notoriety of female sexual health expert Dr Laura Berman.
They used a secret instant messaging system that enabled the conspirators to talk without fear of interception – or so they thought. In the end, US prosecutors were able to present transcripts to the jury.
Asked whether ANZ had any knowledge of depositing $15m in proceeds from security fraud, the bank said it was constrained from commenting, in line with the Financial Transactions Reporting Act.
"We have specialist teams in every country we operate in who work with law enforcement and government agencies globally to reduce the threat and impact of financial crime on ANZ and its customers," an ANZ spokesperson said.
- Cook Islands News