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Hemp Wine Makers Convicted in Pump-and-Dump Scheme

The defendants conspired to defraud investors by issuing millions of shares to themselves at little to no cost.

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iStock.com/Liudmila Chernetska

United States Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko announced the results of a federal investigation involving eight men that were charged in two cases with participating in a pump-and-dump scheme designed to inflate the stock price of Global Resources, Inc. (“GBEN”), a public company that purportedly planned to bring hemp-infused wine to market. All the defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced to a combined total of 165 months of imprisonment.

The defendants charged and convicted were Thomas Collins, 50, of Weatherford, Texas; Patrick Thomas, 50, of Carrollton, Texas; Hughe Duwayne Graham, 66, of Riverside, California; Brian Kingsfield, 54, of Costa Mesa, California; Tyler Paulson, 62, of Canyon Lake, California; Gary Kouletas, 47, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; and Scott Levine, 45, of Delray Beach, Florida.

According to court documents, from February 2014 to August 2020, the defendants conspired to defraud investors by issuing millions of shares to themselves at little to no cost, artificially controlling the price and volume of shares using manipulative trading techniques, and obfuscating the true sellers of stock, all while selling the stock at fraudulently inflated prices to unsuspecting victims in Ohio and throughout the country.

As part of the scheme, Levine used his position to facilitate the conspiracy’s ability to execute trades of GBEN shares between company insiders and investors who had been solicited to buy blocks of free-trading stock.  Kouletas and others operated PAG Group, which was used to enter into secret agreements with company insiders to sell free-trading stock on their behalf for a portion of the proceeds. Members of the conspiracy also knowingly made false statements and omissions when they solicited investors to purchase restricted GBEN stock, including concealing the fact that the salesman’s compensation was up to 40% of the victim’s investment.

As a result of the defendants’ combined fraudulent conduct, nearly 50 identified investors lost more than $2 million after purchasing worthless restricted and free-trading stock. 

The Court determined each defendant’s sentence after a review of factors unique to each case and defendant, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offenses, and the nature of the crimes. The defendants were sentenced to the following terms of imprisonment: Thomas Collins, 37 months; Patrick Thomas, 18 months; Hughe Duwayne Graham, 12 months and 1 day; Brian Kingsfield, 37 months; Gary Kouletas, 43 months; and Scott Levine, 18 months. The defendants were also ordered to pay restitution to the identified victim-investors. So far, the government has recovered over $400,000, which the Clerk of Court will distribute to victims for restitution.

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