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O.C. Man, Who as Teenager Ran Online Scam, Fined $1.3 Million

Times Staff Writer

A federal judge imposed a fine of nearly $1.3 million on Cole A. Bartiromo, who as a Mission Viejo 17-year-old used the Internet to defraud investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday.

Bartiromo, now 20, is serving 33 months in federal prison in Kern County after pleading guilty last year to a separate plot involving fraudulent sales on EBay, the Internet auction site, and an attempt to defraud a Wells Fargo bank branch of $400,000.

The SEC’s civil case in part involved Bartiromo’s Invest Better 2001, which promised online sports gamblers returns of up to 2,500%. It was really just a Ponzi scheme using some investors’ funds to pay others, the SEC said. It also accused Bartiromo of making false claims on the Internet to pump up the price of at least 15 securities that he then sold at a profit.

Bartiromo eventually returned more than $1 million to participants, and he claimed in recent court filings that he was broke. U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones in New York nevertheless imposed a fine of $1,273,371 on him, writing that “his actions manifest an utter disregard for lawful conduct.”

Jones noted that the SEC had introduced evidence indicating that Bartiromo “owned a collection of sports cards worth several hundred thousand dollars.”

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“The court simply does not find his protestations of poverty to be credible,” Jones wrote in her April 29 order, which was released by the SEC on Tuesday.

Bartiromo’s attorneys at Morrison & Foerster could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

In a prison interview last month with the Orange County Register, Bartiromo griped that his lawyers had botched his bank fraud case and that his high school baseball coaches had ruined his chance at a pro career by kicking him off the team because of the SEC lawsuit.

He also complained that a girlfriend, who jilted him as he was about to go to jail, now ignored his letters. “The bad memories of her replay in my mind here every day,” he said.


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