BANGKOK – Police in Thailand say they have captured Sandy Winick, alleged Canadian kingpin of one of the biggest penny stock frauds ever.
Canadian fugitive Sandy Winick, accused of masterminding a massive international stock fraud, allegedly bragged that no one would ever catch up to him.
But less than five days after U.S. authorities charged the former Torontonian and eight other individuals, he is behind bars in Bangkok, Thailand, awaiting extradition proceedings.
The FBI confirmed Monday that the Royal Thai police had captured the elusive Winick, 55, in his room in the city’s Marriott Empire Place hotel during the weekend.
Police have now arrested eight of nine individuals in what the U.S. Justice Department calls one of the biggest international penny stock frauds and advance fee schemes “in history.”
The alleged swindles resulted in $140 million (U.S.) in losses by hundreds of investors in 35 countries from 2008 to this year, according to U.S. officials.
U.S. court documents obtained by the Star allege that the affable Winick, who used numerous aliases including “Robin Cheer,” had boasted numerous times on wiretaps about getting and using phoney passports to travel from country to country without detection by police or regulatory agencies.
“He had bragged about holding fake passports and that no one would be able to apprehend him,” said one senior U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the case.
The FBI said in its investigations, the agency had located Winick in Canada, Hong Kong, Vietnam and “elsewhere” in recent years. When the FBI posted Winick’s name on its “Wanted” list, it revealed he may be living in or near Bangkok, and that’s where police quickly found him.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York said police apprehended Winick, who faces 23 fraud-related charges, without incident in his room.
At one point during the last decade, Winick, who filed for bankruptcy in 1983 and 1998, had lived with his wife in an upscale north Toronto home. It featured a huge aquarium that provided “peace and tranquility,” he said.
Furthermore, the Ontario Securities Commission, which also tracked Winick in recent years, has disclosed he resided in Stoney Creek, near Hamilton, at one time.
U.S. prosecutors, who acknowledged the assistance of the RCMP in the current cases, said the schemes involved the sale and manipulation of billions of worthless shares of shell companies in classic “pump and dump” operations where investors unwittingly bought stock in shell companies without any assets or real business.
The nine defendants, including Winick and three other Canadians, promoted the companies’ securities through bogus news releases and subsequently sold shares at highly inflated prices before the stocks abruptly crashed, the U.S. indictment said.
The indictment added the defendants set up call centres or “boiler rooms” for hard sales pitches and used numerous aliases to disguise themselves. Winick used at least seven other names.
The U.S, Justice Department said that in the alleged advance fee scheme, the defendants induced penny stock investors, including many of the same pump-and-dump victims, to pay upfront brokerage and legal fees to sell their shares and recoup their losses. They received no services, the department noted.
Two fraud counts involve Winick “impersonating” an U.S. Internal Revenue Service official in the fee scheme.
The only remaining fugitive is Greg Curry, another Canadian and former Toronto resident who was born in Sydney, N.S. Police sources in Thailand report that he has fled that country.
Furthermore, police arrested and charged his son Kolt Curry, a former Aurora resident, in connection with the schemes.
Winick and Curry could face up to 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud plus up to five years for conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The Department of Justice charged the duo with 23 counts of wire fraud and three for conspiracy.
Last September, a U.S. judge ordered Winick to repay more than $3.3 million (U.S.) in connection with a company called Blackout Media Corp.
The judge found that Winick, who did not participate in those proceedings, used Blackout — a public company under his control — to spin off 59 subsidiaries from April 2002 to May 2004. The spinoffs had no legitimate business purposes other than to sell unregistered shares, the judge said.
In April 2011 the OSC issued a cease-trade order against a group of respondents that included Winick and Curry in connection with companies called BFM Industries and Liquid Gold International Corp.
The commission, which later found the companies to be “entirely fraudulent,” plans to hand down sanctions against Winick and Curry in mid-September. Winick has not defended himself in those proceedings.
In 2005 Winick was among six people who helped launch The Fight Network. He left the cable channel — which features boxing and mixed martial arts — in late 2007.