On November 8, 2017, a federal grand jury in Brooklyn returned a four-count indictment charging Pennsylvania resident Joseph P. Willner with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and computer intrusions, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  According to the indictment, Willner and others conspired to hack into the online brokerage accounts of numerous victims and to place unauthorized trades in those accounts between September 2014 and May 2017.  Willner and his co-conspirators reportedly used accounts in Willner’s name to place short-sale orders at artificially high prices while simultaneously placing unauthorized buy orders at artificially high prices in the victims’ online accounts, at times liquidating the victims’ existing investments to fund unauthorized purchases.  After purchasing shares in the victims’ accounts, Willner and his co-conspirators allegedly re-purchased the stock from the victim accounts at market or below-market prices, profiting on the difference.  According to the indictment, Willner discussed the scheme with his co-conspirators in private messages exchanged on social-media platforms.  Authorities maintain the alleged scheme resulted in more than $2 million in losses to affected brokerage firms.  U.S. v. Willner, 17-cr-620 (E.D.N.Y.)

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