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After Arrest Spongtech Fraudster Metter loaded Radio Stations with Debt: Greenwich’s WGCH facing Eviction

UPDATE 4:45pm: The head of the Greenwich DTC, Frank Farricker, tells me he’s been try to reach BTR’s receiver, Michael Craven, and his Delaware attorney at Morris James LLP to make an offer on the Greenwich Radio station but so far they’ve refused to call him back. Craven has also refused to return multiple request for comment.

Original Text
The Greenwich Radio Station, WGCH, run by alleged penny stock fraudster Michael Metter has been sued for eviction after racking up over $140k of unpaid management company bills. Court documents filed this week show Metter, who was arrested for criminal fraud in 2010, has racked up near a million of unpaid debt while the courts allow him to run the radio stations after he was released on bail.

Metter was removed as CEO of the Greenwich station last month and the former COO, Jeff Weber, was rehired as a consultant to run the stations while they are trying to be sold. A receiver, Michael Craven, was appointed to monitor the assets of WGCH’s parent The stations were forced into sale after the SEC was able to claim BTR as a relief defendant in the securities fraud suit against Metter and his penny stock company Spongetech because the regulator claims Metter used the station for money laundering in his Spongetech scam.

Since Metter’s arrest he’s loaded up BTR with so much debt that they are also behind on paying Connecticut state taxes, federal taxes, the stations’ vendors, and even some employees–but court documents show Metter continued to pay himself between $16,000 to $18,000 a month over the last two years.

The total bill for BTR vendors and creditors is $991,900 of which the Greenwich Broadcasting Company owes $195,362.

The Greenwich station landlord served a notice to quit the property as a result of nonpayment on July 24th asking WGCH to vacate their station at 71 Lewis St in downtown Greenwich, Conn by the end of the month. WGCH didn’t do it. The landlord stated the monthly rent was $5,647. Harrison Management Company then sold the overdue 10-yr lease, signed in August 2006 to 100 Maison St LLC, on September 7th. Harrison is listed in court records as being owed over $140,000. The new landlord filed suit on September 26th to evict and BTR’s receiver says he is now trying to negotiation with them to stay in the property. A fact the Greenwich Time reporters could have easily picked up on when they reported that Jeff Weber had been brought back after Metter was removed as CEO the first week of October– but they didn’t.

Weber is also the president of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce. The receiver’s creditor spreadsheet, filed in court, shows the Chamber is owed $950 and even Weber has a claim of $24,000 against the radio company he’s working for again.

I previously reported on some of the BTR assets finally being sold at trade publication Growth Capitalist. This money is intended to go to the SEC for victims of Metter’s penny stock fraud. The Brockton Mass. station sold for $250,000 but after deal fees and cost the deal only netted $100,268 which has been placed in a court escrow account. Now BTR’s receiver is asking he court for $50,000 of the sale proceeds to pay some back rent so the radio stations aren’t forced out by their landlords.

There is also a sale contract signed, but not closed, for the Vegas station (KNUU) in the amount of $950,000. But that station is also facing eviction because Metter didn’t pay the rent. The Greenwich and Pittsburg stations have no sale offers. Metter has previously stated in court documents filed in the SEC’s case against him that he thought BTR assets would be worth around $6mn and the Greenwich station was listed for sale at $1.25mn. It’s unclear how Weber or Metter ever thought the Greenwich station would fetch a million sale price considering WGCH was unable to operate during Hurricane Sandy’s power outages because Metter had not bought the station a working back-up generator.

Unfortunately, the SEC’s plan to use money from the sale of the four BTR stations as restitution for mom and pop Spongetech investors has hit a big snag. BTR receiver, Michael Craven, hired a forensic accountant to validate a third-party secured claim against the assets of BTR by a New Jersey hard money lender Solutions Funding LLC. Last week Craven filed court documents stating Solutions Funding claim of $3.08 million is valid–this means the third-party lender will get paid before the SEC can collect any money for investors. Craven actually settled with Solutions Funding for $2.5 million and is waiting court approval to make them the senior secured creditor.

Court documents show the Vegas station has the most assets so it’s not likely the Greenwich or Pittsburgh station would generate a $950,000 price tag like the Vegas station has (a deal that still isn’t closed). So far the net proceeds to pay off Solutions Funding from the sale of the Brockton, Mass. station is only $50,000. So it’s not looking like SEC’s move to get any dollars out of is going to work out. The regulator did succeed in forcing Metter to sale the stations but now we see the beneficiary is going to be a high-interest hard money lender. What’s unclear is why did the SEC not inspect how Metter was using cash flow at BTR till it was too late. Why was he allowed to receive a six-figure income while rent wasn’t paid? Isn’t it their job to weed out people who habitually abuse the markets and securities laws?

SEC Recovers Only $100k From Spongetech Fraud but Stops Metter’s WGCH Income

Spongetech’s co-founder Michael Metter was forced out of his CEO job at last week and had to give up his six-figure income. You might remember Metter’s name when he made headline news around the world for his arrest by the FBI for securities fraud and interference with an SEC investigation. The alleged scam involved the pump and dump of a penny stock company he was CEO of called Spongetech. Metter has been out on bail since May 2010 and allowed to keep his side-job as CEO of four am radio stations he partially owned.

I was first to report last year for DealFlow Media that the SEC, in their civil fraud suit against Metter, was able to seize control of the radio station bank accounts after they discovered Metter and his Spongetech partner Steven Moskowitz had used money from a Spongetech affiliate company to lend the stations $6 million. The transaction was set up as a PIPE deal, which means it involved the sale of Spongetech stock to come up with the funds that BTR then used to pay off Barker Capital who had an asset backed lending fund that gave Metter and his radio company money to buy more radio stations. Metter had also secured his $2 million mid-country Greenwich home as collateral for the Barker Capital loan and when BTR didn’t pay Barker the money back on time they filed a lawsuit to seize the radio station assets and personal assets of BTR owners.

Luckily for Metter he had this high-flyin’ penny stock company, Spongetech, to borrow from and get Barker Capital off his back. The SEC convinced the court this move was similar to money laundering and last year the radio stations, which includes a Greenwich CT am political and business station (WGCH), were named as relief defendants in the Spongetech fraud suit. I reported in February 2010 for Greenwich Time, before Metter’s arrest, that if the SEC sued him for fraud he’d likely lose his radio stations. Well that started to come true last year when the securities regular forced the stations to be put up for sale because they didn’t have the millions needed to pay back the ill-gotten gain from Spongetech.

Today, I reported for finance trade pup Growth Capitalist Investor that court documents show some of the BTR assets have actually sold and the funds are now held by the court. The station won’t answer questions about which stations or assets have sold but I was able to confirm the SEC is telling lawyers in the case it’s only for about $100,000 (net of cost). BTR owns am stations in Pittsburg, Brockton Mass., Las Vegas, and Greenwich. FCC records show the Greenwich and Brockton stations are still owned by BTR and their call letters, WGCH / WXBR are still advertised on BTR’s website. The Las Vegas station was purchased for $3.9 million so if it’s one of the assets that just sold for around $100k that is one heck of a loss. The court appointed receiver for BTR isn’t talking either about the asset sold but by year-end new ownership likely has to be filed with the FCC.

On Friday, Rob Varnon inaccurately reported for Greenwich Time that the Brockton station has been sold for $250,000. Varnon also wrote, “Metter maintains his innocence and said funds from the loan went to pay back a hedge fund that was calling in its loan. He says he did not know the source of the funding was Spongetech.” Now that’s odd since Metter was the signatory power for BTR who received the funds from Spongetech who he was also the CEO of since 2001? SEC filings show Metter signed financial statements and 8-K’s with the SEC stating BTR’s parent Blue Star Media had gotten the loan in question so if he didn’t know where the loan came from then the SEC could just add on another regulatory violation, breach of fiduciary duties because as CEO of BTR it’s his job to know where he is borrowing money from.

These are all documented and easy to research facts Greenwich Time left out of their story. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Metter’s replacement at the radio stations is Jeff Weber, the chair of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and former COO of BTR who was there when the questionable loan went down. SEC filings also show Weber owned shares in Spongetech-it’s unclear if they were ‘given’ as payment for his COO job at BTR or if he bought them on his own. Part of the SEC’s case against Spongetech is the fact that millions of penny stock shares were cashed out via illegal methods of unrestricting stock that wasn’t allowed to be sold on the market. I have to wonder if Weber received any of his Spongetech stock this way? Weber hasn’t been named as a defendant in the SEC or DOJ’s criminal case against Spongetech and also won’t return calls for comment.

Weber told the Greenwich Time last year the Greenwich station was listed for $1.25mn but I reported at Growth Capitalist Investor that people involved in the sale said they’ve haven’t gotten offers anywhere near that.

The monies held from the partial BTR assets sale are meant for defrauded Spongetech investors but my report at Growth Capitalist Investor shows there is now a ‘magical’ new secured lender who claims BTR also owes them millions. This means even if the rest of the stations end up sold, for say $500,000, the SEC will have to fight another court battle in its slow attempt to get back any relief dollars for mom and pop Spongetech investors. The only thing investors can take satisfaction in is Metter’s personal bank accounts, Greenwich home, boat and other assets are still frozen and now he doesn’t have his $8,600 bi-weekly salary coming in.

SEC adds Metter’s Greenwich Radio Station as Defendant in Spongetech Fraud Suit

The SEC is playing tough with alleged penny stock scammer Michael Metter and his Business TalkRadio Network. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed court documents Thursday adding the radio business, which includes Greenwich station WGCH, as a relief defendant in the fraud case against Meter and his pump and dump stock Spongetech. The federal regulator says because Metter has entered a letter of intent for WAY below market value for the stations that the business basically can’t be trusted to sell itself and thus should be named as a defendant to ward off buyers not willing to pay market price. You see the reason the stations were suddenly put up for sale this summer is because the SEC says BTRN owes Spongetech shareholders millions.

I reported in September for DealFlow Media, the SEC alleged that Metter and his partner Moskowitz had basically embezzled Spongetech funds into BTRN, in 2009, and helped it pay off a $5 million debt. As a result the SEC was able to get a partial asset freeze on the radio stations checking accounts and Mr. Metter had to turn over financial signing power to this right hand man Jeff Weber. Weber just happens to also be president of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce. Since then, Weber and Metter’s job has been to keep the stations afloat until a buyer can be found. The proceeds from the stations sale (they own 4 in Greenwich, Vegas, Pittsburg and Boston) would go to the SEC, if they win or settle their case against Meter and Spongetech, who in turn would turn over proceeds to the Spongetech victims.

The SEC stated last week in court documents they’d seen deal terms to sell BTRN stations (sans the Boston one) to an unnamed buyer for only $50k cash and a $950k unsecured, non recourse, 3-year promissory note that is expected to close at the end of January. There is also a letter of intent on the Boston station the SEC says is for way below fair market value. You see earlier last year Metter’s attorney swore in court documents there was an appraisal that showed the BTRN stations were worth more than $6 million. So you can kind of see why the SEC is a little pissey about a Metter orchestrated below market, no security to pay it back, deal going down. That would mean they let him take a $16k a month salary this whole past year to do what? Doesn’t look good for the recovery of dollars for the Spongetech victims-does it? So the regulator told the court this kind of sale isn’t getting approved by them.

Well according to a letter Metter’s attorney filed with the federal court last month, Weber (who isn’t being sued by the SEC) was also doing some funny business. Metter’s attorney, Miranda Fritz wrote, Weber was using his advantage of signatory power to force BTRN to keep his current salary and benefits for the 1st six months of 2012 while the company was trying to cut expenses. When Metter said no – he quit. Metter on his part has agreed to cut his salary from about $240k a year to $165k. His attorney filed a motion at the end of December stating Metter will take bi-weekly payments of $6,875 and supposedly the station owes him another $9,938 in expenses.

But the SEC apparently got pissed when they saw Metter blow off the rules of the court. Since Jeff Weber quit on Metter last month, and he’s the only court appointed signee of the radio biz accounts, Metter has gone back to signing checks and managing money this month — a move that technically isn’t allowed by the court. So the SEC filed a motion to also cut off his bi-weekly salary.

To be fair Metter’s attorney did tell the court, last month, he’d found a CPA with Hegen Streiff Newton & Oshiro, Marc Johnson, to take over as an independent signatory of the radio biz accounts. Remember there is no way in hell the SEC is going to let Metter have power over checking accounts with cash in them. Still the court hasn’t approved any of this, so legally BTRN shouldn’t be using its cash to you know pay staff or bills. (Which would suck for the 40 or so people the company employs.)

Paul Kisslinger, SEC attorney, wrote the court on January 12th, “Given that BTRN has continued to operate in this fashion, apparently at the direction of, or with the approval of Metter, without the entry of an order by the Court, the SEC withdraws its consent to subsections 2(d) and (e) of the Proposed Order which allow Metter to continue to draw a salary or receive any other disbursement from BTRN.”

Metter’s attorney obviously wrote a nasty reply back to the court that the SEC’s move to cut off her criminally charged client was, “inappropriate, irresponsible, and should be rejected by the court.”

Stay tuned because it’s up to Judge Dora L. Irizarry, of the Eastern District of New York Federal Court, to decide what the heck to do about Metter’s salary and the friendly deal he set up to sell the stations.

Michael Metter’s Spongetech Partner Makes Plea Deal with Feds

It looks like Michael Metter’s Spongetech partner is fessing up to the Brooklyn Dept. of Justice. Last week Steven Moskowitz plead guilty to a criminal charge of securities fraud. Aaron Elstein, of Crain’s New York, first reported the news on Friday. It’s unclear what monetary fines or jail time Moskowitz is facing. Robert Nardoza, DOJ spokesman, told me this morning the case has been sealed and they wouldn’t comment further.

Metter and Moskowitz were both charged by the DOJ last May for, amoung other things, obstruction of justice because the feds say they made up fake customers while the SEC was investigating the accuracies of their public statements about the revenue and sales of Spongetech. People familiar with the investigation say Moskowitz was able to get out of the obstruction of justice charge, which faced a five year jail term, in return for a plea deal. Given the lack of transparency from the DOJ and no documents filed in PACER yet we’ll have to wait and see how much Moskowitz gave up on Metter.

At the time of Metter’s arrest last May his lawyer vigorously denied all charges touting they look forward to their day in court to clear the penny stock CEO’s name. Metter has since gotten rid of his lawyers at Greenberg Traurig and hired Maranda Fritz at Hinshaw & Culbertson. I left a voice mail for Fritz asking what Metter had to say about his partners’ guilty plea but his legal team did not return a call for comment. Moskowitz lawyer, Michael Bachner, did call me back but said he just can’t talk about the case right now.

The feds getting a guilty plea out of Moskowitz is significant because it eases the burden of proof for the SEC. But now the securities regulator still needs to prove how much money Metter and Moskowitz defrauded investors in order to recoup the millions they alledgedly siphoned off shareholders . People involved in the SEC’s case confirmed for me there has been no settlement with Moskowitz yet but I expect one to follow soon. Still finding the millions these two scored could be another challenge. Federal Court documents show the SEC is asking $52 million in disgorgement fines plus $2.5 million in interest from Metter and Moskowitz’s shell company, RM Enterprises, which allegedly funneled money out of Spongetech for the benefit of Metter and Moskowitz.

Metter, who is also CEO and a founding shareholder in (which owns the local Greenwich, CT radio station), is still reaping a bi-weekly salary of $9,375.92. The SEC was able to get the court to put restrictions on how he can spend that money and he’s not allowed to use the revenue or assets of the radio business anymore to benefit himself or Spongetech which filed bankruptcy. Metter’s right hand man in the radio biz, Jeff Weber, is in control of signing all legal documents for the business now.

Greenwich Time reported last month the Greenwich Station, WGCH, is up for sale and Weber hopes to get a $1.25 million for it. You see according to court documents filed by the SEC in June, Metter and Moskowtiz used the radio biz to hide funds from Spongetech. The SEC has attached $5 million of a $6 million loan between the radio biz and RM Enterprise / 5M Marketing along with Metter’s Greenwich home and his yacht called The Phoenix. (The SEC says RM and 5M are both shell companies related to Spongetech) At first I thought Metter was trying to sell the station to pay his high-priced legal defense but it looks more like it’s a move to pay off some of the upcoming SEC fines.

In February 2010, I wrote a front page story at Greenwich Time explaining how Metter could be forced to give up or sale his FCC radio license if he was charged for a penny stock scam. At the time Metter threw a fit that his local paper, which he advertises in for WGCH, would even think of printing the story. When he called for comment the night before we went to print he threaten to call the local Hearst publisher, Michelle McAbee, and uses his influence to get the story pulled. It ran any way the next day. At the time Jeff Weber, Metter’s V.P., had commented he knew nothing about the investigation into Metter’s Spongetech business and it had nothing to do with the radio station. What’s odd about that comment is Federal court documents now show in June 2009 (the parent llc is Blue Star Media Group) had received a $6 million loan from a SpongeTech affiliate company. So either Metter kept Weber in the dark or he wasn’t telling me the truth.

Correction 8-30-2011: The SEC has attached the $5 million they believe Metter funneled through from SpongeTech illegal profits to Metter’s personal assets. There is not a $5 million lein on the radio station. The radio station assets were frozen by the local Greenwich banks it had an account with because Metter was the account signatoree but some of those fund were unfrozen to pay salaries and basic bills.

You can buy a single copy of my full story on the SEC accusing Spongetech of using a PIPE deal with BTR to hide funds at The PIPEs Report:

Editors Note: Aaron Elstein has done a good job digging into Metter’s past stockbroker fraud charges. He’s even scored a video of Metter making a hard sell to the poor Spongetech penny stock investors. Elstein deserves a shout out for staying on the SpongeTech case while our local paper, Greenwich Time, is ignoring one of the biggest stock scams by a well know player in the Greenwich community.

Spongetech Fraudster Moskowitz makes SEC Plea Deal

Nearly six months after Steven Moskowitz plead guilty of one criminal count in the Spongetech pump and dump stock scheme the Securities and Exchange Commission got him to settle their securities fraud suit. On May 30th court filings show Moskowitz, co-conspirator of one of the most audacious penny stock frauds that cheated thousands of regular Joe’s out of life savings, agreed to be permanently banned from the industry and payback any profits and bonus he earned while President of Spongetech.

The number of millions Moskowitz will be ordered in restitution is still to be determined by New York Federal Judge Irizarry. The government’s suit, filed in May 2010, claimed the company controlled by Moskowitz and Michael Metter made $52 million in ill-gotten gains. Moskowitz doesn’t admit or deny guilt in the regulators settlement but then the SEC throws in this special condition that he can’t publicly deny he didn’t do any of the securities violations, which included fraud, that they sued him for. This of course could be a boost for the shareholder class action civil suits that are moving forward in New York Federal Court but considering Moskowitz has plead poor to the courts since his arrest we still don’t know how in the heck the SEC is going collect their financial judgment. Remember Moskowitz’s partner and Greenwich Radio station owner Michael Metter is still fighting the DOJ and SEC fraud charges and has yet to admit any wrong doing. And court records don’t exactly show either men have double-digit millions sitting in banks accounts waiting to be seized.

Now we see even though the DOJ got 6 guilty pleas in the case they have a serious evidence problem in their case against the last holdout – Mr. Metter. Aaron Elstein of Crain’s New York reported last month the DOJ got slapped in the face by the judge in Metter’s case when she denied their ability to use any electronic info they got off seized personal computers of Metter because they took too damn long to get through discovery and show Metter’s attorney what they had. If this sounds like a rookie legal mistake let’s not forget this is the same DOJ office that lost the case against the Bear Stearns Hedge Fund managers. Maybe the DOJ found some hidden emails on Metter’s computer showing millions hidden in off-shore bank accounts in Israel (both men are Jewish) and can tell the SEC where to get their recovery from but that’s a long shot.

The SEC made some progress this spring in getting the assets of, which owns the local Greenwich radio station and three other stations, added as a relief defending in their suit. Metter has been a partial owner and chairman of this legitimate business for years. But the SEC added on claims that the Spongetech duo used the Radio biz to embezzle money via Spongetech stock. So the regulator has forced Metter to sell the stations and if there is a buyer the profits go to the SEC. No decent offers have come in yet and it’s highly doubtful they’d get the $1mn asking price on the Greenwich station. On top of that, in February we saw an upstate New York secured lender, Solution Funding, magically pop up and claim if the stations sell they are owed a few million also so that asset isn’t likely to produced real dollars for aggrieved shareholders or the SEC.

Court records show Metter is still getting paid around $6,800 bi-weekly by the radio biz although the SEC controls how he can spend it. Since his May 2010 arrest two years ago that means he’s been able to earn a few hundred thousand dollars off a company that alleged was money laundering about $5 million for Spongetech and its affiliates. He also still gets to live in his $2 million mid-county Greenwich home but hey at least the SEC took his yacht away. The only ray of hope for shareholders is that a letter filed by the SEC in court says a receiver should be appointed soon for and we can assume the receiver would oust Metter from his current $100k+ job and move the stations sell along.

A total of seven people from lawyers to men who helped move money around for Metter and Moskowitz were arrested in the Spongetech securities fraud case and 6 have them have now plead guilty to criminal charges (3 of the 6 have been sentenced to jail time). The Spongetech duo has been charged with fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money-laundering and perjury in the DOJ’s case but Moskowitz and Metter the masterminds behind the scheme are still not locked up. Remember this was company New York Post trained investigative reporters Roddy Boyd and Kaja Whitehouse warned was a fraud a year before there were any arrests. I even reported for Greenwich Time three months before his arrest that Metter could lose the radio station if the SEC charged him. Metter even tried to sue the three reporters outing his fraud for defamation before his arrest which was of course tossed out. The SEC can fine and ban Wall Street criminals all day long but when it happens so late after the financial crime has been committed collection efforts become that much harder and the legal impact that much softer.

SEC Gets Spongetech fraudster to pay $1.3 million

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.