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SEC Charges Social Media Influencer in $100 Million Securities Fraud Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission brought partially settled charges against Francis Sabo (also known as “Ricky Bobby”) in a $100 million securities fraud scheme in which Sabo, along with several other defendants previously charged by the commission in December 2022, used social media platforms to manipulate exchange-traded stocks.

According to the SEC, since at least January 2020, Sabo promoted himself as a trustworthy stock-picking guru and cultivated a substantial following in the Atlas Trading forum on Discord, a free online forum purporting to provide educational content about trading and securities markets. The SEC contends that Sabo, like the previously charged defendants, purchased certain stocks and then encouraged his substantial social media following to buy those selected stocks by, among other things, posting price targets or indicating he was buying, holding or adding to his stock positions.

However, as the complaint alleges, when share prices and/or trading volumes rose in the promoted securities, Sabo regularly sold his shares without ever having disclosed his plans to dump the securities while he was promoting them. The SEC further alleges that from at least January 2020 through December 2022, Sabo made over $1 million from his participation in the stock manipulation scheme.

Sabo is charged with violating the antifraud provisions of the SEC. The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.

To settle the commission’s charges, Sabo has consented to be enjoined from future violations of the charged provisions of the federal securities laws, with the amount of monetary remedies to be determined at a later date.

The settlement is subject to court approval. Criminal charges against Sabo were also filed in a parallel action brought by the Criminal Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

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