(CN) - A New York-based investor relations professional has been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in manipulating the stock price of LED lighting company ForceField Energy Inc., causing a $131 milliion in investor losses.
Jared Mitchell, 35, was sentenced on August 2 by U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan after pleading guilty to securities fraud, steming from charges of money laundering and securities fraud brought in April 2015 against ForceField's former executive chairman Richard St. Julien, a Canadian citizen, who hired Mitchell.
According to prosecutors, between 2009 and 2015, Mitchell and others defrauded ForceField investors by secretly using individuals to buy and sell the company's stock without informing investors and potential investors, increasing the volume of trading to create the false appearance of demand, and concealing payments made to stock promotors and brokers who touted the stock.
Prosecutors say Mitchell was paid kickbacks between October 2014 and April 2015, then paid a portion of his kickbacks to brokers, who in turn bought ForceField stock for their clients. To further cover up the scheme, Mitchell and his cohorts used prepaid disposable phones and content-expiring messaging apps to communicate with each other.
Mitchell is the fourth person to be sentenced in connection with the case, while four other defendants who pleaded guilty, and one other convicted defendant, remain to be sentenced. St. Julien plead guilty and struck a cooperation agreement to testify against his co-conspirators and has not been sentenced.