'We're F****** Robbing Idiots:’ Eight Financial Influencers Indicted in Massive Pump and Dump Scheme

If you have ever heard the words “this is not financial advice” or “this is not stock advice” when scrolling through TikTok or YouTube, you can be sure the next several minutes will be devoted to doing exactly that. Now federal law enforcement alleged that several financial influencers followed by hundreds of thousands of would-be traders were using their fans to bet big on stock trades, all the while expecting to cash out before prices tanked.

In an unsealed 44-page indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, a grand jury charged eight financial influencers in a large-scale securities fraud conspiracy that racked up over $114 million over a little less than two years. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged these influencers went by handles like “PJ Matlock” AKA Perry Matlock, “DipDeity” AKA Daniel Knight, and “LadeBackk” AKA Stefan Hrvatin. Federal law enforcement said all of these accounts hyped up certain companies by posting false info to their thousands of followers on Discord and Twitter and through podcast appearances, all while planning to dump their shares when the stock price became inflated.

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Between them, the alleged fraudsters had hundreds of thousands of followers who were potentially listening to their stock advice while soaking up many inane “dude bro” messages the influencers regularly posted to their accounts. The eight influencers named in the indictment include:

The DOJ said Knight was party to the scheme through his podcast Pennies: Going in Raw that he hosted alongside Mitchell Hennessey, while the other alleged fraudsters were active in coordinating their stock promotions. Along with multiple counts of securities fraud and conspiracy, the influencers could be on the hook for $114 million, according to the indictment.

Attorney information for the influencers was not immediately available Wednesday. Matlock was arrested Tuesday at his home in The Woodlands, Texas, according to court filings, and he has since pleaded “not guilty.”

At the same time the DOJ revealed its indictment, the Securities and Exchange Commission also revealed charges against the eight individuals. The scheme is a classic example of a “pump and dump,” where fraudsters artificially inflate the value of a stock price in order to cash out later. In this case, the financial influencers were reportedly profiting by hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time from them bumping up the price of some stocks.

“The defendants used social media to amass a large following of novice investors and then took advantage of their followers by repeatedly feeding them a steady diet of misinformation, which resulted in fraudulent profits of approximately $100 million,” SEC enforcement chief Joseph Sansone said in a release.

As if to accentuate the allegations, the indictment dives into transcripts of recordings from some of the influencers as they chatted openly about their scheme on Discord. The SEC noted that the influencers thought their conversations were private, but all the while they were being recorded. When Knight and Tom Cooperman chatted about their scheme in May 2021 to pump up the value of GTT Communications’ stock price, one of their co-conspirators, who went unnamed in the indictment, seemed afraid of getting caught. The person said “I just wanna do it the right way…” Knight allegedly responded:

“The f*cking right way? We’re robbing f*cking idiots of their money.”

The conspirators spelled it out pretty cleanly in their Discord chats just what they were trying to accomplish.

“Like, what [RYBARCZYK] does is he alerts it, and then, like, five minutes later all his little minions start, like, retweeting it, and saying ‘added with him,’ so it, like, builds the hype back up. It happens every single time. They have this sh*t down to a f*cking science. It’s great.”

According to the SEC, Rybarcyzk, who went by “The Stock Sniper” on Twitter, told his followers “It’s not my goal to only make me prosper. I want all of you to prosper. I’m gonna make each and every one of you make it. The market is so universal. You just adapt to current conditions. Let’s go crazy.”

While Matlock’s account was disabled by Wednesday, Rybarczyk, Deel, Hrvatin, Cooperman, and Hennessey were all still tweeting about stock prices Sunday going into Monday. By the time they stopped messaging, the influencers were promoting companies like investment managers State Street Global Advisors, immunotherapy company Harpoon Therapeutics, and the retail giant Amazon.

Knight’s account last tweeted Dec. 10 “Thinking about becoming an antivaxxer but was already vaxxed. Are there any devout antivaxxers that can help me please.” Edward Constantinescu’s last tweet from early Wednesday morning read: “I love my homies on here. The rest of you can keep swinging on my nuts.”

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