A British man pleaded guilty on Thursday to committing mail and wire fraud in an investment scam selling worthless stocks of dormant and sham U.S. companies that bilked investors of more than $40 million.
Richard Sinclair Pope, along with several others, hijacked the trading symbols and other key information of publicly traded companies that had run afoul of U.S. regulators and gone dormant, the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa, Florida, said.
Using telemarketers based mostly in Spain, the group then sold shares of the stocks, primarily to investors in the United Kingdom, urging them to wire their money to investment funds with bank accounts in Florida, according to prosecutors.
Pope faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. He was extradited from Spain to face prosecution in the case.
As part of a plea agreement, Pope was ordered to pay restitution to the investors and forfeit properties linked to him in the Turks and Caicos islands and the Dominican Republic, along with money found in numerous bank accounts in Europe and the United States.
Florida has emerged as a hotbed of investment fraud in recent years, including a wave of high-profile Ponzi schemes.
(Reporting and writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Pascal Fletcher, Gary Hill)