Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Federal jury in Tampa finds men guilty in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A federal jury returned a guilty verdict Friday against an Odessa man who helped run a penny stock scheme that bilked victims out of more than $120 million over four years, authorities said.

Paul R. Gunter, 64, originally of London, lived in Odessa when he was arrested in March 2008 by federal agents. A Tampa jury found both Gunter and Simon Andrew Odoni, 56, of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, guilty Friday of three counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering; 19 counts of mail and wire fraud; and 14 counts of money laundering. Both men face, effectively, potential life sentences. Each conspiracy, mail and wire fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

A sentencing date has not been set. Gunter, who had been living under house arrest in Odessa, was taken into custody after the verdict was announced, as was Odoni. Both spent Friday night in Pinellas County jail, according to jail records.

"It's a tough day for Paul Gunter and his family," said his attorney, Neil Taylor. "We respect the jury's decision. The federal government did an impressive job."

Gunter and his daughter, Zibiah, then 25, were arrested in March 2008 after federal agents said they helped run a "corporate hijacking" scam for at least four years in which they created fake companies named after real, but dormant, companies and then sold stock in them as if they owned them. The charges against Zibiah Gunter, who lived in Oldsmar, were dropped after she completed a pretrial diversion program, according to court records.

Paul Gunter, Odoni and several others amassed millions by selling stock in companies like Andros Isle Development Corp. of Miami and Cobra Energy Inc. of Boynton Beach, authorities said. Telemarketers in Spain called potential investors in the United Kingdom, according to court documents, and pressured them into investing in fictional companies.

Gunter's companies raked in more than $127 million, according to the federal government, which was split between Gunter and partners in Texas, Costa Rica and the United Kingdom, where Odoni was.

"Odoni and Gunter were key operators in a criminal gang that ruthlessly targeted the elderly and vulnerable, defrauding them and then spending tens of millions of pounds that had been put aside to support people's retirements," said Detective Inspector Kerrie Gower with London police.

Also, in connection with the scam, two Houston lawyers were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in May 2012 for helping Gunter steal the identities of companies.

When Gunter and his daughter were first arrested, their lawyers claimed they were just escrow agents, with no knowledge of the inner workings of the scheme.

Taylor, Gunter's attorney, did not say if he would file an appeal.

"It's too early," he said. "We have 30 days to evaluate."

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]

Federal jury in Tampa finds men guilty in penny stock scheme 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest

    BY AMY SCHERZER

    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.