U.S. regulators accused several Canadians of orchestrating the hacking of online retail brokerage accounts as part an international pump and dump scheme.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged 18 people and firms, including several residents of Alberta and British Columbia, for allegedly engaging in a securities fraud that involved hacking into dozens of online brokerage accounts and using those accounts to drive up the price of microcap stocks.
In its complaint, the SEC alleged that in late 2017 and early 2018, hackers took control of at least 31 U.S. retail brokerage accounts and used them to buy two penny stocks — B.C.-based Lotus Bio-Technology Development Corp. and U.S.-based Good Gaming, Inc.
“The unauthorized purchases allegedly enabled fraudsters, who already controlled large blocks of Lotus Bio-Tech and Good Gaming stock, to sell their holdings at artificially high prices and reap more than $1 million in illicit proceeds,” the SEC said.
The allegations have not been proven.
Along with the Canadians charged in the scheme, the SEC also charged several U.S. citizens, and U.K. citizens living in the Dominican Republic and in B.C.
“Our complaint details a brazen and sophisticated scheme, with hackers using international accounts and dummy accountholders to hide their tracks,” said Nekia Hackworth Jones, director of the SEC’s Atlanta office, in a release.
“As this case demonstrates, the division can uncover misconduct even when it crosses borders and is concealed behind multiple layers of obfuscation,” Jones added.