US: SEC files lawsuit against Aqua Vie
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil injunctive action against Aqua Vie Beverage Corp, the Idaho beverage company, and its CEO, Thomas Gillespie, as well as a major shareholder, Joseph Wozniak.
This action follows the Commission's 10-day suspension of trading in Aqua Vie common stock on May 2, 2003. Aqua Vie stock formerly traded on the over-the-counter bulletin board.
The Commission's complaint alleges that Aqua Vie and Gillespie fraudulently promoted Aqua Vie's common stock by means of millions of one-page tout sheets faxed to homes and businesses.
Aqua Vie, Gillespie and Wozniak also offered millions of shares of Aqua Vie's common stock publicly, without any registration statement in effect as to the offering, the SEC said.
The unregistered public offering included 2,750,000 shares offered and sold from November 2002 through May 2003 by a company that distributed Aqua Vie's faxes, Fax.com, Inc.
According to the complaint, the defendants dumped millions of shares into a market reflecting demand created by the fax promotion, without disclosing the increase in the public float of Aqua Vie securities.
"The unregistered offer and sale effectively kept afloat a struggling company that was far more successful at marketing its stock than its only product, bottled water," an SEC statement said.
"According to the complaint, the tout sheets presented Aqua Vie, a boutique bottled-water company, in an unrealistically favorable light, projecting high revenues and stock prices, and excluding a dismal history of sales and the expected termination of Aqua Vie's bottling agreement," it added.
The Commission is seeking injunctive relief with respect to all three defendants; disgorgement, pre-judgment interest, civil monetary penalties and penny-stock bar from Gillespie and Wozniak, and with respect to Gillespie only, an officer and director bar.
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