Ohio FBI busts $2 million hemp wine pump and dump scheme, sends 8 to jail


Cleveland FBI busts the fellows in scheme for promoting GBEN inventory.

The Ohio United States Lawyer Rebecca C. Lutzko introduced the outcomes of a federal investigation involving eight males who have been charged in two instances with collaborating in a pump-and-dump scheme designed to inflate the inventory value of International Sources, Inc. utilizing the image GBEN. It was a public firm that purportedly deliberate to carry hemp-infused wine to market.

In line with the assertion, all of the defendants pleaded responsible and have been sentenced to a mixed complete of 165 months of imprisonment.

The defendants charged and convicted have been Thomas Collins, 50, of Weatherford, Texas; Patrick Thomas, 50, of Carrollton, Texas; Hughe Duwayne Graham, 66, of Riverside, California; Brian Kingsfield, 54, of Costa Mesa, California; Tyler Paulson, 62, of Canyon Lake, California; Gary Kouletas, 47, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; and Scott Levine, 45, of Delray Seashore, Florida.

GBEN was supposedly a health-and-wellness enterprise, providing life-style merchandise together with the distribution of a ready-to-drink, hemp-infused cocktail known as “Hemp Hazed.” In line with the SEC grievance, in February 2019, Collins and Thomas obtained management of GBEN via a collection of deceptive transactions designed to hide their management of the corporate and possession of huge quantities of GBEN inventory.

The assertion mentioned that in line with courtroom paperwork, from February 2014 to August 2020, the defendants conspired to defraud traders by issuing hundreds of thousands of shares to themselves at little to no price, artificially controlling the value and quantity of shares utilizing manipulative buying and selling methods, and obfuscating the true sellers of inventory, all whereas promoting the inventory at fraudulently inflated costs to unsuspecting victims in Ohio and all through the nation.

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The courtroom doc said that GBEN reported greater than 77 million shares excellent and a market capitalization of greater than $40 million in June 2020. Nevertheless, GBEN’s monetary statements for the interval ended March 31, 2020, confirmed that the corporate had complete income of unfavorable $2,116, a web lack of $66,384, and unfavorable retained earnings of $2,046,473.

The Lawyer Common mentioned in its assertion that as a part of the scheme, Levine used his place to facilitate the conspiracy’s potential to execute trades of GBEN shares between firm insiders and traders solicited to purchase blocks of free-trading inventory.  Kouletas and others operated PAG Group, which was used to enter into secret agreements with firm insiders to promote free-trading inventory on their behalf for a portion of the proceeds. Members of the conspiracy additionally knowingly made false statements and omissions after they solicited traders to buy restricted GBEN inventory, together with concealing that the salesperson’s compensation was as much as 40% of the sufferer’s funding.

SEC does its half

Individually, in July 2023, the Securities and Alternate Fee instituted settled administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings in opposition to Damon Durante for unregistered dealer exercise for promoting shares of International Useful resource Vitality, Inc. (OTC: GBEN), a Fort Value-based microcap firm. In a separate continuing, The SEC additionally filed within the U.S. District Courtroom for the Northern District of Texas, charging  Collins, Thomas, Kouletas, Levine, and Kingsfield for his or her roles in a fraudulent scheme relating to GBEN.

Because of the defendants’ mixed fraudulent conduct, practically 50 recognized traders misplaced greater than $2 million after buying nugatory restricted and free-trading inventory.

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The Courtroom decided every defendant’s sentence after a evaluation of things distinctive to every case and defendant, together with the defendant’s prior felony report, if any, the defendant’s position within the offenses, and the character of the crimes. The defendants have been sentenced to the next phrases of imprisonment: Thomas Collins, 37 months; Patrick Thomas, 18 months; Hughe Duwayne Graham, 12 months and 1 day; Brian Kingsfield, 37 months; Gary Kouletas, 43 months; and Scott Levine, 18 months. The defendants have been additionally ordered to pay restitution to the recognized victim-investors. To this point, the federal government has recovered over $400,000, which the Clerk of Courtroom will distribute to victims for restitution.

The investigation was performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cleveland Division. Assistant United States Lawyer Alejandro A. Abreu prosecuted the instances.



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