SEC Sues Alpine Securities, continuing a run of bad news for owner John Hurry

As I wrote back in April, FINRA fined Scottsdale Capital Advisors $1.5 million for doing a really poor job at preventing illegal sales by penny stock insiders (FINRA Rule 2010). The owner, John J. Hurry, was barred from the industry. The full 111-page FINRA decision can be found on their website. Unfortunately FINRA prevents direct-linking so you need to go to http://disciplinaryactions.finra.org/Search/ and then enter “John Hurry” as the name. I have downloaded a copy of the decision in case they delete it.

From the FINRA report:

The Respondent firm violated FINRA Rule 2010 by selling securities without
registration and without an exemption, in contravention of Section 5 of the
Securities Act of 1933. The firm’s owner, Respondent John Hurry, also
violated Rule 2010, because he engaged in activities designed to enable the
unlawful transactions and evade regulatory scrutiny.

The Respondent firm and its Chief Compliance Officer, Respondent Timothy
DiBlasi, violated NASD Rules 3010(a) and (b) and FINRA Rule 2010 by
failing to establish and maintain a supervisory system, including written
supervisory procedures, reasonably designed to ensure that the firm
complied with Section 5 of the Securities Act.

The Respondent firm and its President, Respondent Michael Cruz, violated
NASD Rule 3010(b) and FINRA Rule 2010 by failing to supervise and failing
to respond appropriately to numerous red flags indicative of unlawful
unregistered distributions.

The Respondent firm is fined $1.5 million. Hurry is barred in all capacities.
He would also be fined $100,000, but, in light of the bar, the fine is not
imposed. DiBlasi is suspended for two years and fined $50,000. Cruz is
suspended for two years and fined $50,000. In addition, Respondents are
ordered to pay costs, for which they are jointly and severally liable.

From the same FINRA report, John “Hurry is a threat to the investment public.” The SEC must agree because on June 5, 2017 they sued Alpine Securities, which is another broker specializing in penny stocks owned by John Hurry.

The FINRA report on Scottsdale and Hurry describes the close relationship among them, Alpine Securities, and CSCT, which was based in the Cayman Islands.

Respondent Hurry thus owns and controls all three firms involved in the transactions at
issue in this proceeding-Scottsdale, Alpine, and CSCT. In fact, the three firms were almost a
self-contained system for processing and distributing microcap securities. CSCT did all its
business through Scottsdale, and Scottsdale in turn did all its business with Alpine. Alpine’s
current CEO described Alpine as a small”boutique” clearing firm with a focus on the kind of
business brought to it by CSCT. No independent third party was involved in preparing,
approving, or clearing the deposits of stock certificates by CSCT at Scottsdale for resale.

SEC litigation release against Alpine Securities
SEC complaint against Alpine securities (PDF)

From the litigation release against Alpine Securities:

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Alpine Securities Corporation

Civil Action No. 7:17-CV-4179 (S.D.N.Y., filed June 5, 2017)

SEC CHARGES BROKERAGE FIRM WITH FAILING TO COMPLY WITH ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING LAWS

Washington D.C., Jun. 5, 2017 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Salt Lake City-based brokerage firm with securities law violations related to its alleged practice of clearing transactions for microcap stocks that were used in manipulative schemes to harm investors.

To help detect potential securities law and money-laundering violations, broker-dealers are required to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) that describe suspicious transactions that take place through their firms. The SEC’s complaint alleges that Alpine Securities Corporation routinely and systematically failed to file SARs for stock transactions that it flagged as suspicious. When it did file SARs, Alpine Securities allegedly frequently omitted the very information that formed the bases for Alpine knowing, suspecting, or having reason to suspect that a transaction was suspicious. As noted in the complaint, guidance for preparing SARs from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) clearly states that “[e]xplaining why the transaction is suspicious is critical.”

The SEC’s complaint charges Alpine Securities with thousands of violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 17a-8.

From the complaint, the SEC alleges:

This case concerns Alpine’s practices relating to filing Suspicious Activity
Reports (“SARs”) with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
(“FinCEN”). Alpine acts as a clearing firm for many microcap over-the-counter (“OTC”) stock
transactions. Since 2011, Alpine has cleared thousands of deposits of microcap securities, most
of them involving Scottsdale Capital Advisors Corp. (“Scottsdale”) as the introducing broker,
and many of which were used as part of various stock manipulation and other schemes

Alpine’s alleged failures with regard to filing suspicious activity reports (SARs) seem egregious:

Systematically omitting from at least 1,950 SARs material, “red-flag” information of
which it was aware and was required to report under its own BSA Compliance
Program, such as a customer or issuer’s criminal or regulatory history, evidence of
stock promotion, or whether a customer was a foreign financial institution, including
at least 1,150 SARs which included only the customer name, date of deposit, dollar
value of deposit, and the name of the security deposited;
• Filing SARs only on the deposit of stock in approximately 1,900 instances in which
the stock was subsequently liquidated, but failing to file required SARs on subsequent
related transactions such as the liquidation, or transfer of funds resulting from the
liquidation, even though it had identified the deposit of the security as suspicious; and
• Failing to file at least 250 SARs within the required 30 days after the date the
suspicious activity was detected.

Alpine has previously been investigated and cited by FINRA for inadequate SARs in 2012 and 2015.

Lest anyone think that these are just minor paperwork deficiences with no real consequences, I remind you that one pump and dump alone, Biozoom (BIZM), led to over $17 million in fraudulent profits for manipulators / insiders, and many of their accounts were at Scottsdale Capital Advisors.

One interesting thing I noticed: this lawsuit against Alpine Securities came on June 5th, which is exactly the day that the bar against a couple employees of Scottsdale Capital Advisors began. From the FINRA complain from April (emphasis mine):

V. CONCLUSION

The Firm, Scottsdale Capital Advisors, violated FINRA Rule 2010. Accordingly, it is
ordered to pay a fine of$ 1.5 million. John J. Hurryviolated FINRA Rule 2010. For his
misconduct he is barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. He would be
fined $100,000, but, in light ofthe bar, the fine is not imposed. Timothy B. DiBlasi violated
NASD Rules 3010(a) and (b) and FINRA Rule 2010. For his misconduct, he is suspended for
two years from association with any FINRA member in any capacity and fined $50,000. D.
Michael Cruz violated NASD Rule 3010(b) and FINRA Rule 2010. For his misconduct, he is
suspended for two years from association with any FINRA member in any capacity and fined
$50,000.

Respondents are also ordered to pay costs in the amount of$22,124.29, which includes a
$750 administrative fee and $21,374.29 for the cost of the transcript. If this decision becomes
FINRA’s final disciplinary action, Hurry’s bar will take immediate effect. DiBlasi’s and Cruz’s
suspension will begin with the opening of business on June 5, 2017 The fines and assessed costs
shall be due on a date set by FINRA, but not sooner than 30 days after this decision becomes
FINRA’s final disciplinary action in this proceeding.

 

Disclaimer. I have no position in any stock mentioned above. I was long BIZM when trading in it was suspended by the SEC and lost money because of that. I have no relationship with any parties mentioned above. This blog has a terms of use that is incorporated by reference into this post; you can find all my disclaimers and disclosures there as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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