A man from Hawaii has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for a scheme in which he allegedly pumped up the price of unsecured loans by spreading fake press releases that promised high returns for early redemptions. He also lied about converting the loans into a cryptocurrency, the agency said.

The SEC’s New York office charged Jeremy Koski on Friday. He allegedly distributed fake press releases and redemption notices on shares that he owned in a trust fund operated by retailer JCPenney. The agency says Koski knowingly lied to investors to drive up the price of those shares so that he could sell them in a pump-and-dump scheme.

The shares were from the J.C. Penney Debentures Corporate-Backed Trust Securities Certificates of Structured Products Corp. (COTRP).

"[Koski] conceded that he fabricated the fake redemption notices and fake press releases, that he knew their contents were false, and that he published them to try to create artificial interest in and raise the price of COTRP shares," read the SEC statement.


The SEC says that Koski started his pump-and-dump scheme in an attempt to protect himself from seeing a huge loss on his investment. In September 2020, the agency said Koski purchased over 287,000 debentures, a debt security whose yield is based on the issuer's earnings, for about $302,000 at a price of about $1.05 per share. 

In the run-up to his fraud, JCPenney was still emerging from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, pushing down the price of the shares to just around $0.07, representing a potential loss of more than $281,000 for Koski. 

A month later, Koski put his plan into motion by spreading fake redemption notices on messaging boards under numerous aliases, driving the price of shares up and selling off some of his own. 

According to the SEC, the shares traded between approximately $0.01 and $0.27 per share, with about 3,200 traded daily in the month before Koski posted the fake notices. On the first day after they were posted, the price shot up 600% to $1.11, and daily trades shot up to 270,000. During this time, Koski pocketed $815 after selling 800 shares he owned.


Starting in September 2021, Koski shared the first fake press release that claimed that the trust shares were being converted into a cryptocurrency, and that the conversion was being conducted in collaboration with Jim Simons, the founder of the legitimate hedge fund Renaissance Technologies.

Neither Simons nor Renaissance were involved at all, but Koski paid distribution service Issuewire to spread his fake statement.  

The SEC brought its case against Koski for the harm caused to investors, who purchased the shares at inflated prices due to his scam. Koski is due for a preliminary hearing before a federal judge in Hawaii on November 6, according to the website of the U.S. District Court in Hawaii.

Stay on top of crypto news, get daily updates in your inbox.