A Scottish man is in trouble today, having been indicted yesterday by a San Francisco jury on charges of using Twitter to manipulate stock prices. Two companies were targeted in the 2013 scheme, including the Mountain View-based Audience.
The man, 62-year-old James Alan Craig, is accused of creating a fake Twitter account that mimicked the look and feel of market research firm Muddy Waters Research, alleges the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Craig then tweeted information critical of the companies — specifically that Audience was being investigated for fraud — then took advantage of the resulting dip in the value of the company's stock by purchasing while it was artificially deflated, reports the Associated Press.
In addition to Audience, Craig focused his efforts on a Washington-based biopharmaceutical company.
After successfully managing to devalue both companies with the use of tweets, Craig then had the genius idea to use his girlfriend's tradeMONSTER account to buy and sell company shares.
Needless to say, the FBI found him out.
“The allegations in this indictment describe a significant stock price manipulation committed through the use of social media,” said Acting United States Attorney Brian Stretch in a FBI press release. “This prosecution makes clear that we will find and prosecute those who commit fraud on our stock exchanges, by any means, no matter where they reside.”
According to the FBI, the fraud resulted in shareholder losses of $1.6 million.
If convicted, the Scotsman could face up to 25 years in jail and a fine of $250,000.
The case is similar to another that cropped up in July in which fraudsters created a website that looked like Bloomberg News in order to create a fake story about Twitter, as The Verge reported, suggesting Twitter was about to be acquired by Google. This was a classic "pump and dump" scheme that originated from a firm out of Panama, which swiftly sold its stock after the price rose.