Escazú man held in U.S. stock fraud case

An Escazú expat has run afoul of the U.S. Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

The expat is Richard St. Julien, the executive chairman of the Board of Directors of ForceField Energy Inc., a U.S. publicly traded corporation, said the U.S. Department of Justice. He was detained in Florida as he was boarding a flight back to Costa Rica.

The U.S. Justice Department said that he is accused of manipulating the stock in his company. The stock is listed on the NASDAQ exchange.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice ForceField purports to be a worldwide distributor and provider of LED lighting products and solutions. According to the criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court, since approximately August 2012, St. Julien and associates engaged in a scheme to manipulate the price and trading volume of ForceField’s stock by using undisclosed nominee accounts, including an account held by a dermatologist in Boulder, Colorado, to purchase and sell the stock, and through the use of stock promoters and broker dealers who failed to disclose to potential investors that they had been paid by St. Julien to promote the purchase of the stock.

St. Julien did not disclose his ownership and control of the shares purchased through nominees and used offshore banks, including in Belize, to pay the nominees to conceal his ownership and control, said the U.S. Justice Department. St. Julien coordinated the purchases by telephone and text messages, it added.

As detailed in the complaint, at the end of January, St. Julien paid approximately $50,000 to a stock promoter through the dermatologist in Colorado. A few days later, the stock promoter began promoting the purchase of ForceField shares on its publicly available Facebook page, disclosing that his company had been paid $25,000 by an entity unrelated to St. Julien, or the dermatologist, the federal agency said.

Through his scheme, St. Julien and his associates deceived the investing public by creating the appearance of genuine trading volume and interest in ForceField’s stock, and as a result, from approximately January 2014 to April 2015, the price of the stock rose from a low of $4.55 per share to a high of $7.82 per share, said the Justice Department.

The company has been active in negotiating contracts for lighting with Costa Rica government agencies.

Although St. Julien lives in Escazú, the firm is registered in Nevada and has a headquarters in New York.

The firm said on its Web site that on Dec. 6, 2013, the Contraloría General de la República awarded it a contract to install 25 LED lights in the agency’s parking lot. At the same time it said that it formed a strategic alliance with the Universidad de Costa Rica to support a demonstration project to study the health benefits of LED lighting on professors and university employees as well as the impact on academic grades of attending students.

St. Julien said at the time that the firm has more than $40 million in letters of intent outstanding in Costa Rica alone.

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