U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission building in Washington, D.C. Photo: Michael A. Scarcella/ALM.

A federal jury on Friday convicted James M. Schneider, 77, a securities lawyer from Boca Raton, of 33 counts of conspiracy, securities and wire fraud following a two-week trial in the Southern District of Florida, where it heard evidence the lawyer registered fraudulent shell companies with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Schneider took part in a “pump-and-dump” scheme between 2008 and 2015, which involved the manipulation of shares in 20 shell companies. Schneider wrote fake opinion letters claiming nonaffiliates owned the companies, when, in fact, they were owned by his co-conspirators whom he wired more than $5.6 million in profits, according to court documents.

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Schneider is one of 12 defendants convicted in connected cases — including two other securities lawyers, David Lubin of New York and Andrew Wilson of California, co-conspirators in the scheme. The SEC also filed a parallel civil suit against Schneider.

Schneider was a highly regarded, AV-rated attorney before his indictment in October 2017. He practiced law for more than 40 years, and once led a Fort Lauderdale firm, Pearlman Schneider.

“We are evaluating the jury’s verdict, we’re evaluating other aspects of the case, and we have not yet made a decision, as to whether there are significant issues on appeal,” said Schneider’s lead attorney, Ira Lee Sorkin of Mintz & Gold in New York, who pointed out that Schneider was acquitted of obstruction of justice and lying to the SEC.

Sorkin has also defended Bernie Madoff, the former stockbroker convicted of running one of the world’s largest Ponzi schemes, and Jordan Belfort, who, after his conviction on securities fraud charges, published a memoir titled “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was later made into a motion picture by Martin Scorsese.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jerrob Duffy and Christopher B. Browne, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey T. Cook prosecuted the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida declined to comment on the case.

Schneider faces several maximum sentences of 25 years for fraud, conspiracy and wire fraud, and two maximum sentences of 10 years for money laundering. He could also be fined up to $250,000.

U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno in the Southern District of Florida is set to sentence Schneider on Feb. 14, 2019.

 

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