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A 17-year-old has agreed to turn over some $900,000 he allegedly swindled from investors in a sports betting scheme he ran on the Internet, the government announced. The latest case pursued against a youngster by federal securities regulators shows that “just about anyone — even a 17-year-old high school student — can mastermind a securities fraud over the Internet,” Stephen Cutler, enforcement director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said Monday. The SEC alleged in a civil lawsuit that Cole A. Bartiromo, who lives with his parents in Mission Viejo, Calif., defrauded about 1,000 investors of more than $1 million through his “Invest Better 2001″ Web site and bulletin board. The SEC alleged that from last Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, Bartiromo raised more than $1 million by selling what he described as “guaranteed” and “risk-free” investments in which he pooled investors’ funds to bet on sporting events. The scheme promised returns of 125 percent to 2,500 percent, the SEC said. In a settlement with the SEC, Bartiromo agreed to repay the $900,000 of his allegedly ill-gotten gains that agency investigators had located in an account at a Costa Rica casino. He neither admitted to nor denied the SEC’s allegations. Bartiromo’s attorney, David Bayless, didn’t return telephone calls seeking comment. In a prominent case in September 2000, the SEC brought its first charges against a minor when it sued Jonathan Lebed, who earned more than a quarter-million dollars trading stocks on the Internet in less than six months — though he was only a sophomore in high school in New Jersey. Lebed agreed to repay $285,000, which the SEC said represented illegal profits and interest. He neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to refrain from similar behavior. Last August, 23-year-old Californian Mark Jakob was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for issuing a phony press release to manipulate the price of stock in the high-tech firm Emulex Corp. The SEC had said that Jakob’s actions defrauded investors out of $110 million. In its suit in the Bartiromo case, the SEC also named “Defendants John and Jane Does 1-10,” whom it described as unknown individuals or groups of people who along with Bartiromo were responsible for the allegedly illegal investment programs. The SEC first sued in the case on Dec. 13 without naming Bartiromo; the agency said it later discovered his identity. Bartiromo is not related to well-known anchor Maria Bartiromo of the CNBC financial television network, according to CNBC. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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