U.S. SEC freezes assets of 18 traders over alleged manipulation

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, United States, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Wednesday it has obtained an asset freeze against 18 traders over a market-manipulation scheme through which they reaped over $31 million in illicit profits.

The SEC said the traders, who are primarily China-based, manipulated more than 3,000 U.S.-listed securities by using multiple accounts to place sell orders and then buying more of the stocks at artificially low prices. They then followed a similar pattern to buy at artificially inflated prices, authorities said.

The scheme created the appearance of trading interest in the thinly traded securities, the SEC said.

“We allege that defendants engaged in an extensive manipulation scheme and went to great lengths to evade detection, placing trades in over one hundred separate accounts at several different brokerage firms and submitting falsified documents to open new accounts in the names of others,” Joseph G. Sansone, chief of the SEC’s Market Abuse unit, said in a statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced criminal charges against two of the traders, Jiali Wang and Xiaosong Wang, according to the statement.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington and Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler and Matthew Lewis

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