‘CHiPs’ TV cop Wilcox to plead guilty

Larry Wilcox, the former “CHiPs” TV star accused by federal regulators of securities fraud, has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges in the stock manipulation case.

Wilcox, 63, could face five years in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud under a plea bargain reached with the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami on July 2 and released publicly this week.

The Justice Department filed criminal charges against Wilcox and nine other penny stock promoters on Thursday in Miami at the same time that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil securities fraud charges.

The government agencies allege that the promoters agreed to pay kickbacks to investors in classic pump-and-dump schemes: The cooperating investors would buy shares of the promoters’ thinly traded penny stocks with the goal of driving up the prices in the hope of luring other investors into the shares.


Typically, that’s a way for the promoters to then dump more of their own shares on unsuspecting investors.

What the promoters didn’t know was that the investors they were paying off were government agents operating a sting, the SEC and Justice Department said.

Wilcox, who lives in West Hills, starred as California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer Jonathan “Jon” Baker on the hit show “CHiPs” in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. “CHiPs,” which ran from 1977 to 1983, also starred Erik Estrada as Francis “Ponch” Poncherello.

More recently, the government said, Wilcox headed a company called UC Hub Group Inc. The firm’s website said it was involved in “precious metals, gems and the oil and gas industry.”

UC Hub’s home page also states: “The company is also focused to increase the value for shareholders by doing the proper due diligence to prove economic validity for the acquisition of the target systems, operations, company or companies.”

The stock lately has been selling for a fraction of a penny, but it got as high as 3 cents a share in early 2009, the period when the government says that Wilcox’s alleged manipulation scheme was underway.

Wilcox’s lawyer, William Richey in Miami, could not be reached for comment.

Times staff writer Nathan Olivarez-Giles contributed to this report.