Seven of the defendants, Perry Matlock (@PJ_Matlock), Edward Constantin (@MrZackMorris), Thomas Cooperman (@ohheytommy), Gary Deel (@notoriousalerts), Mitchell Hennessey (@Hugh_Henne), Stefan Hrvatin (@LadeBackk), and John Rybarczyk (@Ultra_Calls), built their followings by creating content highlighting their personal finance expertise. The influencers would often post images of their wild gains from daily trades and investments and showed the spoils of a lifestyle with seemingly unlimited wealth — sports cars, helicopter rides, and private pool parties.
In addition to the SEC charges, the men have been indicted on criminal charges that could send them to prison for up to 25 years if found guilty. Each has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Constantin was charged with three counts of securities fraud, and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. Matlock and Deel are both charged with five counts of securities fraud; Rybarczyk with four; and Hrvatin, Cooperman, and Hennessey with two counts of securities fraud each. Their first court appearance was on Tuesday.
Their followings on Twitter ranged from 100,000 to 600,000 — Constantin, with 549,900 followers, has the largest audience. The group also used Hennessy’s iHeartRadio podcast Pennies: Going in Raw, which launched in July 2020, to promote their chosen stock. Hennessy’s cohost, Daniel Knight (@DipDeity), was also charged by the SEC with “aiding and abetting the alleged scheme.” (iHeartRadio didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.)