The SEC scored its first victory in their case against the penny stock scam at Spongetech. Last spring Greenwich radio station owner (WGCH) Michael Metter and his pal from Queens, Steven Moskowitz, were arrested at their homes by the FBI for interfering in a SEC investigation and slew of investor fraud claims. The SEC sued a long time friend of Moskowitz last month, Myron Weiner, for selling unregistered shares of Spongetech and basically laundering the cash for Moskowitz and Metter. Well it looks like Weiner folded pretty fast because yesterday the SEC said he agreed to pay a hefty fine of $1.3 million. Weiner’s civil penalty was only $50,000 and he doesn’t have to admit to wrong doing.
The SEC says Weiner lives in Hoboken, owns a restaurant in New York City, is 69, and had this little problem with manipulating the price of certain stock back in the early 70’s. The complaint goes on to claim Moskowitz and Weiner met in 1970 while working at Kenneth Bove (the firm where the stock manipulation went down so many years ago). Weiner became a shareholder of RM Enterprises, the firm Metter and Moskowitz allegedly used to funnel Spongetech stock sales through, when he was gifted shares in 2001. Then in 2009 he got a bucket of Spongetech shares for 5 cents and sold them for 20 cents. To whom those profits went is still in question and I have some doubts that Weiner actually has $1.3 million to pay the SEC fine. So while this is a win for the SEC because Weiner likely spilled some dirt on Metter and Moskowitz to get a deal with the SEC; defrauded investors in Spongetech shouldn’t count it as a big score until we see the SEC actually collect the dollars.
As Aaron Elstein at Crain’s New York first reported, Moskowitz made a plea deal with the DOJ a few months ago, and the SEC has finally released a little money for him to live on. But we still have no plea deal with Moskowitz and the SEC, nor do we have a sentencing date for Moskowitz in his DOJ case. Legal filings in the SEC v. Metter case show he’s still fighting the charges tooth and nail. As I reported earlier Metter also still reaps a decent salary from his Greenwich Radio station; although the station’s assets and spending are being monitored by the SEC.
A few lawyers representing Spongetech investors have said they filed motions to get the SEC to share discovery with them, which could help their civil investor fraud suits against Metter and Moskowitz, but the SEC just blows them off; so for now it’s still a bit of a clusterfuck. If the SEC figures out the Spongetech founders funneled money to Israel or Switzerland then they could sue the banks holding the cash under the Hauge Convention but that takes at least a year. So with all the parties involved flipping to get deals with the DOJ I’d imagine we’ll see Metter pleading to something in the new year.
Editors Note: Aaron Elstein of Crain’s New York has some more color on Weiner and reports Avi Tepfer has finally folded also declaring he plans to plead guilty in the DOJ’s case against him early next year. Unlike Metter’s home town paper, Greenwich Time, Elstein via Crain’s has done a bang up job of continuing to cover the Spongetech fraud. You can read more of his coverage here.