Eric Cusimano pumped and dumped stocks for a living.
And to hear investigators talk, he took in nearly $8 million in just four years of doing it.
Now, he’s going to prison.
Cusimano, one of the architects of a penny stock scam in Chautauqua County that victimized 250 people, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to 46 months in prison.
Arcara also ordered him to pay $657,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
“You’re talking about a substantial white-collar crime,” the judge said Friday. “This is a pretty significant fraud case, to say the least.”
As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Cusimano admitted taking part in a “pump and dump” stock scheme that artificially inflated the value of penny stocks and duped unknowing investors.
The prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, said Cusimano used newsletters and a website called “bestdamnpennystocks.com” to lure investors and spread misleading information about specific stocks.
The goal, prosecutors said, was to artificially inflate the price of those stocks and then sell them, reaping benefits for people who were part of the scam.
“He was the No. 1 touter of penny stocks,” Mango said of Cusimano’s leadership role in the scheme. “He was the top guy.”
Defense attorney James W. Grable Jr. argued for leniency and suggested that the man awaiting sentencing on Friday is a far cry from the man who cheated investors.
“The guy who’s standing before you is a guy who’s going to do the right thing,” Grable said.
Investigators claim Cusimano took in nearly $8 million over a four-year period and made more than $1 million in unreported income as part of his scheme.
“If possible, I would apologize to each individual,” Cusimano said of the victims.
Cusimano pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and tax evasion. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to turn over foreign bank accounts in Belize and Panama and real estate in Lakewood and Frewsburg.