By AFP and Harriet Alexander for Dailymail.com and Matichon
THE THIRD suspect wanted in the US for inflating the value of a New Jersey deli by over 900% was arrested at a hotel room near Phuket’s Surin beach today (Jan. 14), Matichon newspaper said.
Peter Coker Jr., 54, a citizen of Carribean island state of St. Kitts and Nevis, was arrested by a Crime Suppression Division team headed by its chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Jiraphob Phuridej and a team from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation under an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court on December 27, 2022 for extradition.
Coker Jr, together with his father Peter Coker Sr., 80, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and James Patten, 63, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, were charged in September 2022 for their role in inflating the value of the New Jersey deli, to show that the small shop was worth $112 million.
The deli in Paulsboro, 32 km from downtown Philadelphia, hit the headlines in April 2021 when a well-known short-seller singled out the establishment as an example of lawlessness in the markets.
The small deli had revenues of less than $40,000, but was being used by Paul Coker Jr., then a Hong Kong-based financier, as a shell company.
Coker Sr. and Pattern were arrested earlier but Coker Jr. was only arrested in Phuket today.
Coker Jr. was chairman of Hometown International, while Coker Sr. was a major shareholder.
The Justice Department charged the three with a conspiracy in which they took control of two companies and their stock trading to artificially pump up equity valuations.
The trio shifted shares to shell companies to mask control, while transferring other shares to family members and friends whose log-in details they had obtained.
Having parties set up on both sides of the transaction, the men then used the accounts to perform a series of “match and wash trades” to pump up the value of their companies – with Hometown rising by 939 percent, and E-Waste by 19,900 percent, the Justice Department said.
“These tactics artificially inflated the price of Hometown International and E-Waste’s stock by giving the false impression that there was a genuine market interest in the stock,” said a DOJ press release.
Hometown International Inc was first incorporated in Nevada in 2014, and opened the Paulsboro storefront, Your Hometown Deli, in 2015.
Routine regulatory filings revealed that initially, the company was 95 percent owned by Paul F. Morina, the principal and wrestling coach at Paulsboro High School, and Christine Lindenmuth, a maths teacher at the school.
Morina was listed as the CEO and Lindenmuth as the CFO and treasurer.
They have not been charged with any crime.
Patten wrestled in high school with Morina.
Prosecutors said Patten convinced the owners of the deli, which was established in 2014, to put it under the control of an umbrella company, called Hometown International.
“Unbeknownst to the deli owners, almost immediately after Hometown International was formed, Patten and his associates began positioning Hometown International as a vehicle for a reverse merger that would yield substantial profit to them,” prosecutors said in a release.
The Cokers and Patten face steep prison sentences and fines.
The securities fraud and securities price manipulation counts carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
The wire fraud and money laundering counts also have maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.
The conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to manipulate securities prices counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Top: Peter Coker Jr. being arrested at a hotel room in Phuket today. Photo: Matichon
First insert: Peter Coker Jr. is the chairman of Hometown International, the holding company for a New Jersey deli, according to SEC filings. Photo: Daily Mail
Second insert and Front Page: Hometown Inc denied it was a shell company when questioned by the SEC, saying that it had a viable storefront operating in Paulsboro. Photos: Daily Mail
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