Defendant in stock scam that trapped shore traders pleads guilty
TRENTON - A Florida day trader, who pocketed more than $750,000 through an insider-trading strategem that snagged two co-defendants from the Jersey Shore, faces up to 20 years in prison for securiies fraud.
Joseph Spera, 56, of Boca Raton, pleaded guilty to the federal charge, and also to conspiracy, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick. In a separate action, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil complaint against Spera in Trenton.
The securities fraud charge carries a possible sentence of 20 years and a fine as high as $5,000,000. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years and a $250,000 fine. Spera agreed to forfeit $768,766. His formal sentencing is scheduled for April 12, 2018.
Steven Constantin of Farmingdale, and Paul Petrello of Brielle, previously pleaded guilty and await sentencing, along with Ron Chernin of Oak Park, California. A fifth defendants, Steven Fishoff of Westlake Village, CA, is under indictment and awaits trial, scheduled to begin March 19, 2018.
According to information issued by Fitzpatrick's office, Spera and the co-defendants allegedly short-sold securities issued by at least 13 public companies between June 2010 and July 2013, based on information believed to have been supplied by Fishoff and others.
Constantin, Fishoff's brother-in law, and Chernin, a friend, working as day traders for Fishoff, committed to confidentiality, or "wall-crossing" agreements concerning the content, timing and pricing of offerings, and were "brought over the wall" to determine whether various stocks should be bought, authorities said.
Spera admitted that Fishoff allegedly supplied him with inside information, either directly or through Petrello, providing trading symbols, timing and, occasionaly, pricing details. Spera also got information directly from an issuer of one offering, investigators said.
Spera and the co-defendants pulled in more than $3,900,000 in profits by shorting the stock in anticipation of post-disclosure drops in stock prices, dealing through accounts of their respective trading firms or through related accounts under their control, covering the short positions after offerings were given public exposure, authorities said. Spera allegedly split his take of more than $768,000 with Fishoff.
The government's case is led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shirley U. Emehelu, Nicholas Grippo and Sarah Devlin. Spera is represented by Princeton attorney Alain Leibman..
Charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.
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