Make us your home page

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

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

  1. Val Kilmer says he's canceling his Tampa Bay Comic Con appearance


    Val Kilmer and the Tampa Bay Comic Con announced today that the Batman, Tombstone and Willow star has canceled his appearance at the convention in Tampa this weekend. 

    Val Kilmer has canceled his appearance at Tampa Bay Comic Con.
  2. Brain study examined 111 former NFL players. Only one didn't have CTE.


    Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease, according to a new study published Tuesday.

    In this 1974 file photo, Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler looks to pass. Research on the brains of 202 former football players has confirmed what many feared in life _ evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a devastating disease in nearly all the samples, from athletes in the NFL, college and even high school. Stabler is among the cases previously reported. (AP Photo/File)
  3. Two-vehicle collision leaves driver dead, another with serious injuries


    SAN ANTONIO — A two-vehicle collision Tuesday morning in Pasco County left one person dead and another with serious injuries.

  4. Bob Graham says Trump appears to be pushing Jeff Sessions aside to get at Robert Mueller


    WASHINGTON - President Trump's attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "unseemly" and without precedent, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham said this morning. 

    Former Sen. Bob Graham on CNN
  5. Innovocative Theatre company debuts with workmanlike production of 'Proof'


    TAMPA — A new company debuts with Proof, David Auburn's Pulitzer-winning play. Innovocative Theatre, founded by Dunedin native Staci Sabarsky, is currently running productions out of Stageworks Theatre space. Sabarsky also directs and performs in the show.

    Dennis Duggan plays Robert Marie-Claude Tremblay plays Catherine in Innovocative Theatre's first production, Proof, by David Auburn. Photo courtesy of Staci Sabarsky.