U.S. securities officials charge Latvian in stock price manipulation scheme

Calling his actions “brazen,” the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a man from Latvia in a stock price manipulation scheme that allegedly netted him more than USD 850,000 in illegal profits.

Igors Nagaicevs, 34, who apparently lives in Jūrmala, is alleged to have hijacked online securities trading accounts, using them to manipulate prices of stocks in which he had an interest, according to the SEC’s complaint filed Jan. 26 in federal court in San Francisco.

“The scheme enabled Nagaicevs to consistently derive quick trading profits, even if he manipulated the price of the security by only a small amount,” according to the complaint.

From 2009-2010, Nagaicevs is alleged to have manipulated the prices of more than 100 New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq securities, causing more than USD 2 million in harm to customers of U.S. brokerage firms, according to an SEC press release announcing the charges.

Under the scheme, Naigacevs would first establish a “long” or “short” position in a company’s stock, meaning he bought shares with the expection that they would either increase or decrease in value. Then, according to the SEC complaint, he used unsuspecting customers’ accounts to purchase or sell stock, which affected the share value. Naigacevs then closed his position, earning a profit.

“Nagaicevs engaged in a brazen and systematic securities fraud, repeatedly raiding brokerage accounts and causing massive damages to innocent investors and their brokerage firms,” Marc J. Fagel, director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office, said in a statement.

His first illegal trade, according to the SEC complaint, took place in June 2009 and netted him just USD 50. However, many of the trades earned him thousands of dollars. His most successful trade, in June 2010, left him with a USD 26,400 profit on one day’s work.

The SEC in its complaint says Naigacevs violated antifraud provisions of U.S. securities laws. It seeks an injunction against Naigacevs, wants him to hand over the ill-gained profits, and asks the court to fine him.

Also named in the complaint against Nagaicevs are four electronic trading firms and executives or staff members of the firms. They are accused of giving Nagaicevs access to U.S. markets. Some have already settled with the SEC.

“These firms provided unfettered access to trade in the U.S. securities markets on an essentially anonymous basis,” Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit, said in a statement. “By failing to register as brokers, the firms and principals in this case exposed U.S. markets to real harm by evading crucial safeguards of the federal securities laws. We will not allow firms like these to fly under the radar and become safe havens for market abuse.”

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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