Boiler room kingpin pleads guilty

Boiler room kingpin pleads guilty

NEW YORK — A Canadian boiler-room operator arrested in Bangkok in 2013 faces up to 20 years in jail after pleading guilty in the United States to duping investors out of more than US$5 million.

US authorities described Sandy Winick, 57, of Ontario, as "a penny-stock fraud kingpin" who operated boiler rooms around the world.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Winick and his associates inflated the value of stocks through a "pump and dump" scheme, left victims with worthless shares and victimised them a second time through an "advance fee" scam.

Winick pleaded guilty on Friday in Brooklyn to a conspiracy charge connected to the advance-fee accusation. Investors were asked to pay to make sure their stocks could be resold at a profit — a promise that was not kept. He admitted fraudulently taking the fees from investors from 2008 to 2013, prosecutors said.

Winick and his co-conspirators "simply stole the fees without providing any services", prosecutors said in a statement.

The group created fake consulting businesses and law firms, fake press releases about the stocks, and opened call centres that operated in Vietnam, Thailand and Canada, according to an indictment.

Hundreds of the victims lived on Long Island and the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and the accused planned to open a call centre in Brooklyn, prosecutors said.

Thai Special Branch police arrested Winick at Empire Place in Yannawa district of Bangkok in August 2013.

The Canadian was among nine Canadians and Americans indicted by the US Attorney's Office on charges of cheating investors in 35 countries out of more than $140 million.

Winick had been arrested earlier in 2011 by Crime Suppression Division police on fraud charges, after setting up a Thai call centre to lure victims from other countries. He was also charged with illegally working in Thailand.

US court documents say that Winick bragged about bribing Thai officials to get out of jail. He subsequently jumped bail and left the country, before sneaking back into the kingdom again.

For details of the case, see  US v. Winick, 13-cr-00452, US District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).



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