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April 30, 2003

The Dark Side of the Last Decade

By John A. Byrne

The criminal underworld, and the role played by a small group of shady market makers, will be remembered in postscripts about the 1990s bull market.

The accounts of that period had another twist in recent weeks. Allen Wolfson, a Salt Lake City penny stock promoter, was convicted by a federal jury in New York City of securities fraud, wire fraud and other related charges.

Wolfson, who has a long history of run-ins with the law, is described as the mastermind behind a massive "pump and dump" scam from late 1998 to 2000.

This scam was allegedly made possible with the assistance of sleazy stock brokers and others. They each received up to 65 percent of the trading value in six inflated small-cap stocks. After turning their profits, they then dumped the stocks on investors, according to the authorities.

Wolfson turned to Michael Greco, a confidante of the Colombo crime family in New York, to send trades to certain market makers. These dealers ensured that brokers at various boiler rooms bought stock from Wolfson in return for a handsome commission, regulators said.

Wolfson's role in the penny stock fraud was part of a larger crackdown by the government in its "Operation Uptick." It led to the conviction of some 100 people. Wolfson was sent packing to jail for his latest convictions.