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Opko Health CEO among investors charged with microcap fraud by SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged 10 individuals and associated companies Sept. 7, including biotech billionaire Phillip Frost, for allegedly facilitating yearslong market manipulation schemes.

According to the SEC's release, "a group of prolific South Florida-based microcap fraudsters," including Frost, manipulated share prices of three companies' stocks. Frost leads diagnostics maker Opko Health Inc. as chairman and CEO. Opko Health has also been charged with an SEC violation. The company said in a Sept. 7 press release that trading would halt until it has "fully satisfied Nasdaq's request for additional information."

The suspected leader, biotech and bitcoin investor Barry Honig, apparently acquired discounted stocks in large quantities in order to gain substantial ownership interest. Honig and his associates artificially inflated the stock prices and then "dumped" their shares to make a profit off "unsuspecting investors," who would end up with worthless stock, the SEC said. The commission said the group made more than $27 million in stock sales from the schemes, which ran from 2013 to 2018.

The SEC has also charged John Stetson, Michael Brauser, John O'Rourke III, Mark Groussman, Elliot Maza, Robert Ladd, Brian Keller, John Ford, Alpha Capital Anstalt, Atg Capital LLC, GRQ Consultants Inc., HS Contrarian Investments LLC, Grander Holdings Inc., Melechdavid Inc., Frost Gamma Investments Trust, Southern Biotech Inc. and Stetson Capital Investments Inc.