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Is IMGG's CEO Pulling the Plug on His Company?

by Melissa Davis - 3/11/2010 10:15:38 AM

* Click here to start/join a discussion of this article or send tips for future news stories.

To some, Imaging3 (OTC: IMGG.OB) CEO Dean Janes appears to be giving up on his own company.

On Feb. 11, exactly one month after IMGG announced the latest in a series of regulatory setbacks, Janes reportedly began pitching a new investment opportunity to his 1,000-plus “friends” on Facebook. In his biggest insider transaction on record, Janes then sold 2.6 million shares of IMGG stock the very next day.

Since then, Janes has followed up with specific details about his new business venture. In a recent email to potential investors, Janes announced that he is partnering with Brian Altounian – a driving force behind some troubling penny stocks -- to form a publicly traded “business development corporation” that will raise capital for other microcap companies and invest in those stocks itself. Janes and Altounian will serve as co-chairmen of the new venture, known as Alliance Acquisitions, while filling top executive posts at the startup company as well.

Meanwhile, after years of trying, IMGG has still yet to secure permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell its Dominion 3-D imaging device. Although IMGG boldly predicted FDA clearance for the scanner months ago, driving its stock to a record high of $1.95 a share, the company has since fielded multiple questions from the regulatory agency. Janes pledged to address the FDA’s concerns by the end of last month but wound up announcing his new venture with Altounian instead.

“Both of us have been approached by hundreds of microcap companies wishing to utilize our knowledge and experience towards assisting them in raising money, becoming public, organizing business plans and mostly wishing to follow our successful business strategies,” Janes stated when courting investors for the new operation. “This is by far the greatest potential company I’ve ever considered being a part of.

“We are raising $5 million,” he added, “and from my initial responses, this looks to fill up very fast.”

Janes has already supplied potential investors with applications to purchase stock in the new company. They must spend at least $5,000, enough to cover 20,000 shares of Alliance Acquisitions, in order to participate in the private offering.

With 20 million shares for sale, Alliance could attract up to 1,000 investors – including many loyal IMGG followers -- before the company even goes public. After that, Alliance will then purchase shares of other penny stocks that could rise on that buying power.

“Our track record has yielded an experienced and enthusiastic investor base that we will bring to every investment opportunity,” Alliance boasts in its official business summary. “Our investors know how we operate, in business and personally, and they provide faith and support for our endeavors.”

That “support” could boost shares of Alliance and the penny stocks that it holds. If history serves as any guide, however, those gains could benefit only early investors while leaving latecomers – who purchase the stocks at or near their peaks – holding the bag.

Both Janes and Altounian failed to return phone calls from The Street Sweeper on Tuesday seeking comments for this story.

‘Longtime Friend’

By now, The Street Sweeper has examined IMGG and its founding CEO in detail. (Those interested may click here for access to past stories.) With Janes now branching out, The Street Sweeper has decided to take a close look at his new business partner as well.

In his email to potential investors, Janes describes Altounian as “a longtime friend” whose business strategies resemble his own. Indeed, Altounian has direct ties to IMGG itself.

Notably, Altounian appears on a list of “majority” IMGG shareholders who voted to increase the company’s authorized share count by 50% -- from 500 million to 750 million – 18 months ago. (Although IMGG initially assumed that it could expand its share count without the blessing of ordinary investors, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has since stepped in to delay that move.) Four other shareholders carrying the Altounian name show up on that same list.

All told, Altounian has played a role – as an executive, a director, a consultant or major shareholder – at nine different penny-stock companies. He scored a personal homerun with XsunX (OTC: XSNX.OB), a solar company where he served as chairman, when that stock rocketed ahead of a looming crash.

In early 2006, with XSNX topping the $1 mark for the first time in years, Altounian promptly cashed out 300,000 shares of company stock for a tidy six-figure gain. XSNX continued to rise in the months that followed, allowing Altounian to pocket even bigger profits on down the road.

XSNX also raised some eyebrows during that surge, however. In March of 2006, Hans Deuel – a former Ph.D. scientist who operates a financial blog called Clearfish Research – suggested that XSNX was nothing more than an overhyped penny stock.

“They are nowhere near having a product, have never generated any revenue and don’t know when they will,” Deuel wrote at the time. “They are only story, since they have no products or revenue. And stories are not businesses.”

Although XSNX actually peaked near $3 a share the day after Deuel’s report, that rally proved to be short-lived. With the stock falling into the $2 range by the following month, Altounian began dumping more of his shares.

He executed three big stock sales in April of 2006 alone. He cashed in 500,000 shares of XSNX the first time, becoming an instant millionaire in the process. He sold another 474,000 shares, with the stock slipping below $2, a mere 10 days later. He then finished up by transferring 400,000 shares – selling them for a penny apiece when the stock had just closed at $1.87 a share – to an account set up for two apparent relatives who share his same last name.

Less than three months after those well-timed transactions, XSNX tumbled back below $1 and has remained there ever since. With XSNX now fetching just 13 cents a share – and Altounian long gone with his winnings – Deuel’s warning clearly proved valuable to those who chose to follow his lead.

“It looks to me like the stock is being manipulated,” he stated four years ago. And “playing in manipulated penny shares with no products is just not our game.”

‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’

Altounian has filled important roles at seven other penny-stock companies as well. When listing his past accomplishments for potential investors in his new venture, Altounian identifies those companies by name: Platinum Studios (OTC: PDOS.OB), Cereplast (OTC: CERP.OB), Machine Talker (MACH.OB), OriginOil (OTC: OOIL.OB), BioSolar (OTC: BSRC.OB), Warp9 (OTC: WNYN.OB) and Carbon Sciences (OTC: CABN.OB).

All of those stocks currently trade well below the $1 mark, with the highest-priced (OOIL.OB) fetching 33 cents and the lowest-priced (WNYN.OB) selling for a fraction of a penny a share. The five stocks with historic trading charts – PDOS, CERP, OOIL, BSRC and CABN – have all plummeted from past highs.

Nevertheless, in its pitch for new investors, Alliance Acquisitions brags that Altounian has already helped those companies achieve their “respective exit strategy goals” of simply going public on the OTC Bulletin Board.

Altounian continues to serve as acting president of PDOS, a small entertainment company that licenses comic book characters out for use by various media outlets. (The stock has fared poorly despite Altounion’s ongoing leadership, falling from an original price of 20 cents to just 6 cents a share.) He also fills the top posts at Wowio, another comic book company that PDOS purchased with shares of its own stock a couple of years ago.

That transaction immediately stirred up fears within the comic book world. D.J. Coffman, a former PDOS writer and creator of the Hero by Night comic series, expressed grave concerns even before PDOS officially took over Wowio back in mid-2008. Other industry followers have gone on to voice similar despair.

“Platinum appears to be doomed,” one reader lamented on the ComicMix website after hearing about the deal. “And if so, Wowio is going down with them.”

Since then, PDOS has sold Wowio to a holding company controlled by Altounian himself. Critics felt worried about that transaction as well.

On a seperate industry-related website, comic book enthusiast Ray Cornwall wondered how much Altounian had actually paid for Wowio and whether the sum had been properly disclosed to PDOS shareholders. Another comic book fan, Ed Sizemore, suggested that – despite Wowio’s apparent change in ownership – nothing had really changed.

“I believe quoting The Who’s ‘We Won’t Get Fooled Again’ seems appropriate on many levels,” Sizemore wrote on ComicsWorthReading.com. “‘Meet the new boss,’” he recited, “‘same as the old boss …’”

The ‘New Gig’

Meanwhile, Janes has served as the only boss of IMGG since its inception 17 years ago.

When a 2002 fire destroyed the company’s headquarters – leased to IMGG by Janes himself – the company simply changed its name and its business strategy. (It also pocketed more than $2 million in insurance payments.) After almost a decade of repairing medical equipment manufactured by others, IMGG decided to invent its own medical device instead.

In mid-2007 – some five years later -- IMGG finally submitted a 510(k) application seeking FDA clearance to sell its Dominion 3-D imaging device. Although the 510(k) process normally takes only months to complete, IMGG is still waiting for approval of its scanner to this day.

In fact, this January, IMGG announced significant regulatory setbacks that made some investors wonder if the company would ever secure approval of its imaging device at all. Just two months earlier, with IMGG touting its FDA prospects on MoneyTV, investors seemed certain that regulators were poised to bless the company’s device instead. (Interestingly, both Janes and Altounian have appeared on MoneyTV – a show hosted by a past target of securities regulators – on multiple occasions, sometimes paying for time on the very same episodes.)

IMGG’s stock, now trading for just 65 cents a share, peaked near $2 in mid-November on FDA-related hopes. But the company’s latest quarterly report, filed on the same day the shares reached that high, revealed possible reasons for alarm.

For starters, IMGG posted deteriorating financial results and barely mentioned its FDA prospects – the driver of its future performance – at all. Moreover, the company disclosed a troubling related-party transaction as well.

Specifically, the filing shows, IMGG gave Janes $1.77 million to cover an outstanding loan he made to the company. IMGG wound up paying Janes too much, however, so it recorded $1.09 million of that sum as a related-party receivable on its balance sheet.

Based on IMGG’s regulatory filings, Janes generated at least some of the cash for those loans by selling company stock. His loans to IMGG, payable upon demand, have since been fully satisfied. It remains unclear, however, whether Janes returned the favor and refunded his seven-figure overpayment from the company.

Either way, thanks to his recent stock sale, Janes generated enough money to pay off that loan if necessary. Although he originally reported proceeds of just $100,000 from that transaction, he has since raised the figure to $1.86 million instead. He then indicated that he used the cash to cover an outstanding debt.

As previously noted, Janes sold that IMGG stock around the same time that he began pitching his new business venture. Meanwhile, when courting potential investors for his new company, he mentioned his ongoing commitment to IMGG almost as an afterthought.

“I will still carry on my duties and responsibilities at Imaging3,” Janes stated at the end of the email announcing his new deal, “and will continue until I see that company through FDA and on to market/acquisition.”

Even with Janes dedicating all of his energy to IMGG, however, the company has failed to achieve those goals. With Janes now focused on his new venture, some feel, IMGG could soon fade away.

Nevertheless, IMGG’s loyal followers remain committed to the company and – hungry for the next big winner – receptive to any new Janes-led operation that comes their way. A string of chat-room messages, posted by excited investors last month, showcases that remarkable faith.

“Dean really is starting a new company,” the first message states. “I wonder if this means a buyout (of IMGG) and a new adventure.”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” others chime in. “I’d love to get in on a million shares of his new gig.”

* To contact Melissa Davis, the author of this story, please send an email to editor@thestreetsweeper.org.

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Jammin Java (JAMN): Hot Stock ... Bitter Aftertaste?

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee! That’s exactly what Jammin Java (OTC: JAMN.OB), a heavily promotedcoffee company, and – for very different reasons – TheStreetSweeper would like investors to do.

Since the beginning of the year, JAMN has miraculously risen from the ashes of the “Grey Market” graveyard to become one of the liveliest – and richest – stocks in the entire microcap arena. JAMN has seen its stock shoot straight toward heaven, soaring from 55 cents to peak above $6 a share on massive daily volume, with its market value nowtopping $355 million despite the company’s limited resources and operating history. (As covered in more detail below, two of the Internet tout sheets pushing JAMN the hardest effectively vanished -- disabled by their Internet servers -- on the day the stock’s trading volume exploded past 20 million shares.) 

JAMN stands out for its powerful connections, the first loudly celebrated by the company and the second – involving a notorious stock promoter – carefully hidden from view.


 

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Heralded as “the unofficial queen of cybervigilantes” by Fortune magazine more than a decade ago, Shell boasts a long and impressive record of exposing fly-by-night microcap companies – and warning investors away from their stocks – well before their shares ultimately collapse. She has attracted a devoted group of followers, which includes some topnotch financial journalists, along the way.

“It wasn’t called ‘Internet sleuthing’ when Janice and a small band of colleagues at Silicon Investors invented it,” saysRoddy Boyd, a former stock-market reporter for both the New York Post and Fortune who now runs a hard-hittinginvestigative news site of his own. “Yet, starting in the ‘90s, Janice and her cyber-partners did what the SEC, the FBI and frankly the media could not or would not do: They asked questions. They dug into files, found the forgotten postings and buried press releases and, slowly but surely, began to nail one fraud and witless promotion after another.

“In a just society, Janice and her partners would get medals,” Boyd adds. “We don’t live in a just society. But thankfully, Janice has found a roost at TheStreetSweeper to deliver well-reported, crisply written justice upon the sundry sleazebags of the capital markets.”

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With oil prices on the rise worldwide, and nuclear reactors leaking in Japan, alternative energy stocks continue to soar, especially in Pennyland. Green may be good, but many of the “green” companies trading in the microcap arena – particularly highflying Lithium Exploration Group (OTC: LEXG.OB) – could burn investors if they run out of fuel and crash.


They can still be promoted and played, of course, as veterans of the shady penny-stock world well know. And companies promising to search for lithium, which powers the batteries used in new and increasingly popular electric cars, rank among the clear favorites in this risky space.

Today, LEXG stands out as the biggest star by far. The company generates no revenue, corporate filings show, and will likely need years to do so if it manages to survive that long. It had no cash on hand at the end of 2010, either, and it managed to raise a mere $250,000 through a private placement deal earlier this year. But thanks to a $3.3 millionpublicity campaign – possibly record-breaking in price – LEXG has skyrocketed from 12 cents to almost $4 a share in barely a month and now boasts a market value that’s approaching $200 million. 

If history serves as any guide, however, LEXG will fail to hold onto even a fraction of those remarkable gains. A year ago, TheStreetSweeper scrutinized three similar companies in a detailed report entitled “Can the Batteries Last on Overcharged Lithium Stocks?” That question has long since been answered, alas, with all three stocks sinking from impressive highs to increasingly miserable lows.

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The corporate headquarters for Horiyoshi Worldwide (OTC: HHWW.OB), located within blocks of several Los Angeles homeless shelters servicing Skid Row, looks rather modest for a high-end fashion company that recently sported a market value approaching $200 million.

Earlier this month, TheStreetSweeper sent some locals to HHWW’s home office after watching the company’s stock rocket from $1 to $3 a share on a blizzard of paid promotions. They found a tiny operation, manned by a single staffer (focused on investor relations), that housed little more than two clothing racks containing about 20 T-shirts apiece.

Based on prices supplied in HHWW’s regulatory filings, those T-shirts represent an estimated $6,000 worth of inventory for the company. While meager, that figure nevertheless eclipses the $912 in total sales reported by HHWWfor the second quarter of this year.

To be fair, HHWW has yet to release third-quarter results that might reflect an uptick in sales following the company’s adoption of an aggressive growth strategy. Still, corporate filings show, HHWW actually saw its quarterly revenue plummet – sinking from $152,175 to less than $1,000 – in the months leading up to that grand plan. 

Even so, stock promoters – paid huge sums to tout HHWW – have painted an incredibly rosy picture of the company. Last month, for example, Eric Dickson of Breakaway Stocks predicted that HHWW could soar more than 4,500% by the end of this year. The stock, currently trading at $1.63, must somehow find a way to reach $45.38 a share over the next few days for that wild forecast to come true

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Two months after TheStreetSweeper began sounding alarms about Alternate Energy (OTC: AEHI.PK), federal regulators have officially filed charges against the company and two of its officers for allegedly fleecing investors through a long-running pump-and-dump scheme.

In a formal complaint this week, issued just days after halting AEHI’s stock, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission flatly accused the company and two senior executives – CEO Donald Gillispie and his girlfriend Vice President Jennifer Ransom – of scamming investors while secretly enriching themselves. Since it went public four years ago, the SEC says, AEHI has raised millions of dollars by promising to build a nuclear power plant even though the company has “no realistic possibility” of ever achieving that goal. Meanwhile, the SEC says, AEHI insiders have quietly dumped big chunks of stock while publicly expressing strong confidence in the company.

“The company has made multiple misrepresentations, including claims that its executives had such confidence in AEHI that they had not sold a single share of company stock,” the SEC stated on Thursday. However, “records obtained by the SEC show that Gillispie and Ransom have instead secretly unloaded extensive stock holdings and funneled the money back to Gillispie.”

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HHWW: Another Hyped-Up Stock That's Dressed to Kill?

The corporate headquarters for Horiyoshi Worldwide (OTC: HHWW.OB), located within blocks of several Los Angeles homeless shelters servicing Skid Row, looks rather modest for a high-end fashion company that recently sported a market value approaching $200 million.

Earlier this month, TheStreetSweeper sent some locals to HHWW’s home office after watching the company’s stock rocket from $1 to $3 a share on a blizzard of paid promotions. They found a tiny operation, manned by a single staffer (focused on investor relations), that housed little more than two clothing racks containing about 20 T-shirts apiece.

Based on prices supplied in HHWW’s regulatory filings, those T-shirts represent an estimated $6,000 worth of inventory for the company. While meager, that figure nevertheless eclipses the $912 in total sales reported by HHWWfor the second quarter of this year.

To be fair, HHWW has yet to release third-quarter results that might reflect an uptick in sales following the company’s adoption of an aggressive growth strategy. Still, corporate filings show, HHWW actually saw its quarterly revenue plummet – sinking from $152,175 to less than $1,000 – in the months leading up to that grand plan. 

Even so, stock promoters – paid huge sums to tout HHWW – have painted an incredibly rosy picture of the company. Last month, for example, Eric Dickson of Breakaway Stocks predicted that HHWW could soar more than 4,500% by the end of this year. The stock, currently trading at $1.63, must somehow find a way to reach $45.38 a share over the next few days for that wild forecast to come true.

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Regulators Pull the Plug on Alternate Energy

Four years after Alternate Energy (OTC: AEHI.PK) went public, courting investors with grand plans to build a multibillion-dollar nuclear power plant, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has finally suspended trading in the controversial penny stock.

This week, the SEC halted AEHI due to questions about “the accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information” about the company. When cracking down on AEHI, the SEC cited concerns about several issues – including company finances, executive compensation and insider sales – examined by TheStreetSweeper in its recent coverage of the company. (Click on these three links to access those stories and the backup documents used to prepare them.)

AEHI critics, who have been sounding alarms about the company for years, expressed clear relief at the long-awaited news.

“It was a scam from the beginning,” declared Joe Weatherby, a former planning and zoning commissioner in AEHI’s home base of Idaho. “This has been a long time in coming.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” he added. “So it was a great Christmas present.” 

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Alternate Energy: Another Radioactive Stock Pick?

Alternate Energy (OTC: AEHI.PK) investors might want to take a closer look at some of the outfits that have embraced the company’s stock.

Just last month, two different firms – both known for risky microcap picks -- rushed to defend AEHI with bullishrecommendations after TheStreetSweeper raised legitimate concerns about the company. The first one, Pinnacle Digest, owns AEHI’s stock and admitted in a disclaimer that it plans to “sell every share” for its own profit without advance notice to its followers. The second one, WallStreetCorner.com, regularly collects cash and/or stock from the companies it endorses and has directed investors into some notorious losers along the way.

Years ago, for example, WallStreetCorner’s Larry Oakley touted a company known as Accident Prevention Plus that served as the vehicle for an illegal pump-and-dump scheme. The so-called “mastermind” behind that scam wound up sentenced to 10 years in prison last month – just three days before Oakley issued his ringing endorsement of AEHI – as punishment for his crimes.

Oakley has embraced other ill-fated stocks, such as eMax Holdings (OTC: EMXC.PK) and Hathaway Corporation, as well. In certain ways, AEHI now resembles both of those doomed companies.

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Alternate Energy (OTC: AEHI.PK) has spent the past four years selling investors an incredible – if incomplete – story.

The basic plotline goes something like this: AEHI will somehow secure the funding and approval necessary to build a multibillion-dollar nuclear power plant in Idaho that’s virtually guaranteed to deliver eye-popping profits for investors. That version of the story contains some gaping holes, however, filled with pesky secrets that threaten to ruin this fairy-tale ending.

Take the first chapter in this ongoing saga, just for starters. Initially, AEHI CEO Donald Gillispie said the company would build its nuclear power plant in Owyhee County – touting a deal inked with “prominent Idaho landowner and businessman” James Hilliard -- and spent the next year portraying that site as a suitable location for such a project. In the spring of 2008, however, AEHI suddenly announced that it had abandoned that site due to troubling fault lines and shifted the project to nearby Elmore County instead.

In a sworn deposition that surfaced last month, however, Gillispie offered far different reasons for that abrupt change of plans.

“There were two things going on,” he states in that document. “First of all, we had not received funding because we lost our silent partner there … The other thing going on was that Hilliard would not – he had been extending the contract whenever it came up, like a six-month contract – and in early ’08, he didn’t extend it.”

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Alternate Energy: Power Stock or Toxic Waste?

Four years ago, Alternate Energy (OTC: AEHI.PKCEO Donald Gillispie arrived in one of the poorest counties in Idaho and began selling company stock to local investors impressed by his grand plans.

Although AEHI had spent just $1,000 on research and development during the previous two years, regulatory filings show, the company boasted all sorts of remarkable inventions. AEHI claimed that it had developed a breakthrough fuel additive that could slash the costs of natural gas-powered electricity, for example, and that it was also creating mini reactors that would “revolutionize nuclear power in an urban setting.” Even better, the company said that it was poised to become “the first company to harness the natural energy delivered in a bolt of lightning” – a goal later portrayed as “hopeless” by a national lightning expert interviewed by The New York Times.

While ambitious, however, those projects ranked as mere side shows for the young public company. If possible, AEHI had even bigger plans. Despite its minimal resources, skeptics say, AEHI promised to build a multibillion-dollar nuclear power plant – the first project of its kind for decades -- in a rural Idaho desert that lacked the vast water supply and available transmission lines normally required to make such projects work.

“They have no money; they have no plans,” a county commissioner told the local Owyhee Avalanche newspaper at the time. “Most (locals) think that it’s … a daydream or a fairy tale.” 

Since then, records show, AEHI has announced funding deals with at least three obscure financial firms – including one whose leader would later be charged with alleged securities fraud – but still lacks the money required for even the equivalent of a down payment on a nuclear power plant. AEHI also keeps changing the planned location for its proposed plant, local news coverage reveals, currently settling on an Idaho county already ruled out by Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Nuclear Energy because it made no economic sense.

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Ever since RMCP filed the paperwork last month to clear the way for massive sales of its stock, the company has been issuing a flurry of press releases containing increasingly upbeat news. RMCP kicked things off with a couple of announcements about its MRI technology in mid-August, which proved effective enough to push the company’s stockfrom 28 cents to 40 cents a share. When RMCP shifted its attention to the company’s new “safety syringes,” however, the stock really started to fly. By Sept. 13 – less than a month after RMCP began churning out its steady stream of good news – the briskly trading stock had soared to an all-time high of $1.74 a share.

Three announcements, issued over a one-week span this month, fueled most of that surge.

The first two celebrated a manufacturing deal, calling for the production of 5 million safety syringes, inked with an obscure firm led by an apparent insider of the company itself. (As noted in more detail below, that firm does not seem to exist.) The third, even more powerful, announcement hinted at a looming syringe order from none other than the federal government.

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This month, Ambrosino delivered his latest knockout blow with a powerful recommendation of CLKZ that has since left investors reeling. With CLKZ sitting at $1 a share, Ambrosino urged investors to buy the stock before it surged past $20 as the company – a cash-poor outfit with just a handful of employees – conquered Craigslist to become the new heavyweight leader of the online classified advertising world. CLKZ did march higher on that paid tout, ultimately reaching $1.37 a share on Wednesday, but never approached even Ambrosino’s $5 short-term target before staging a remarkable collapse.

The stock, hammered by a sudden selling spree that began the same day it peaked, now fetches just 53 cents a share. Even at that lower price, however, CLKZ still boasts a market value of $31.2 million that looks rather lofty for a company that – just six weeks ago – cautioned that it lacked the funds necessary to finance its operations for more than 30 days.

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Canadian regulators aren’t buying the story that Tradeshow Marketing (OTC: TSHO.PK) and Skymark Research – a paid promoter led by the son of TSHO’s founder – tried so hard to sell.

The Alberta Securities Commission has issued a cease-trading order for TSHO’s stock, while banning Skymark from trading or recommending any securities, after uncovering tell-tale signs of a classic pump-and-dump scheme. When explaining its move on Monday, the ASC cited concerns originally raised by TheStreetSweeper in a detailed investigative report almost six months ago. (Click here for the original story, complete with links to backup documents.)

Specifically, the ASC claimed that TSHO had soared on bullish Skymark forecasts secretly generated by relatives connected to the company. The ASC also noted that John Kirk, the sole director of Skymark and the son of TSHO’s founder, “held a significant number of shares” in the company – as did TSHO founder Bruce Kirk himself – at the time of the stock-boosting promotions. It pointed out that Ben Kirk, another son of the founder, worked for Skymark during the publicity campaign as well.

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This year, Liquidmetal Technologies (OTC: LQMT.PK) has kept some telling – and arguably material – secrets from its investors.

Take LQMT’s recent deal with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) as an obvious example. In a cryptic 8-K filing on Aug. 9, LQMT suddenly announced a contract with Apple that – on the surface – seemed to warrant a full-blown press release. Specifically, LQMT revealed that it had signed a “master transaction agreement” that would allow Apple to commercialize its technology for future use in its consumer electronics products.

LQMT never disclosed the terms of that licensing contract, however, allowing hopeful speculation to fuel the company’s shares instead. LQMT’s stock, which fetched just 13 cents a share a month ago, rocketed to a multiyear high of $1.76 last week before swiftly crashing on the lack of details associated with that high-profile deal. The stock, down another 10.6% on Wednesday, has now lost most of its Apple-related gains and currently trades for just 76 cents a share.

This spring, in the months leading up to that dramatic deal, LQMT kept quiet about another important development as well. In an even shorter 8-K filing on March 8, LQMT quietly disclosed that longtime Chairman John Kang had left the company without giving any reason for his departure. One week earlier, Kang was convicted at trial on fraud charges – carrying a potential five-year prison sentence – for inflating the financial results of another company he had previously led.

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Ecosphere: A Clean Energy Company with a Dirty CEO?

Either Ecosphere Technology (OTC: ESPH.OBCEO Dennis E. McGuire simply shares a lot in common with a twice-convicted drug felon – a coincidence of remarkable proportions – or he is the former jailbird himself.

Based on public records and news stories gathered by TheStreetSweeper, supplemented with a 63-page personal background report, the CEO and the ex-con look very much the same.  The names and birth dates match. The names of multiple relatives come up as matches, too. Other key identifying traits – including addresses, business ties and even partial social security numbers – correspond as well.

McGuire’s original corporate bio, published in regulatory filings, hints at further parallels. That bio begins when McGuire graduated from community college in 1974 and, following a long and unexplained hole, picks up in detail when he invented his first cleaning technology (armed with a mere associate’s degree) more than 15 years later. The mysterious gap in between corresponds with the very period when the convicted McGuire operated a drug business, news reports show, and twice served time in jail.

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Why Can't Ecosphere Score a Deal with BP?

Maybe Ecosphere Technologies (OTC: ESPH.OB) should have added Kevin Costner, the celebrity backer of a competing water-treatment device, to its star-studded team.

Despite ringing endorsements from its own superstars – including a big-name environmentalist and two retired professional athletes – ESPH has so far failed to secure an order from BP (NYSE: BP) for machines that, it says, can effectively address the company’s massive oil spill. Costner’s company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, fielded an order from BP for 32 of its machines almost two full weeks ago. ESPH is still waiting on an order, however, even though the company claims that it offers a superior device.

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Junior Mining Companies and the 'Temple of Doom'

Ever since AmeriLithium (OTC: AMEL.OB) purchased some mining assets from GeoXplor -- a Vancouver outfit led by the so-called “Indiana Jones” of the lithium trade -- the company has taken investors on a wild and, at times, thrilling ride. If history repeats itself, however, AMEL investors better not count on a happy ending to their journey.

After all, GeoXplor has sold mineral claims to several other microcap companies that met with rather ugly fates. Even worse, government records show, GeoXplor founder Clive Ashworth has been previously banned from the securities industry for an alleged scam – which resulted in criminal convictions for two stock promoters – involving yet another resource company.

Nevertheless, Ashworth continues to win over junior mining companies and those who promote their risky stocks alike

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Putting Together the Puzzle at Big Bear Mining

If Big Bear Mining (OTC: BGBR.OB) would risk hiring a bankrupt CEO with a checkered past to serve as the “public face” of the company – and essentially give him $30 million worth of stock for the favor – then investors might want to search for even darker secrets that the junior gold miner is still trying to keep.

They could start by examining BGBR’s original address. That address, listed in past BGBR regulatory filings as 1728 Yew St. in Vancouver, shows up in filings for several other penny stock outfits as well. Those companies share at least one glaring trait: They count Shane Whittle, a busy Vancouver stock promoter, among their top executives.

Armed with credible outside leads about Whittle’s connection to BGBR, TheStreetSweeper decided to call him and politely ask about his ties to the company. Whittle’s response came across as nothing short of violent.

He immediately claimed “no involvement” with BGBR and then warned of possible legal action for the “harassing” phone call. Specifically asked if he was making a threat, he replied with this: “Yeah, 100% … Take your phone call and shove it up your ass.” 

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Fearing Risks, Big Bear Promoter Tells Investors to Flee

Big Bear Mining (OTC: BGBR.OB) has scared off one of its most powerful fans.

James DiGeorgia, editor of the Gold and Energy Advisor newsletter, this week suddenly reversed his “strong buy” recommendation on BGBR and started urging his followers to sell the stock instead. His abrupt about-face came just one day after The Street Sweeper raised serious questions about BGBR’s true value and the paid promoters – including DiGeorgia himself – who have been touting the heavily traded stock.

“Based on new information I received in the last 24 hours that I was not presented with when I initially reviewed and recommended the stock, I believe it would be in the best interest of any investors holding shares in this company to sell them,” DiGeorgia stated in an official press release on Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve made money or lost money holding BGBR.OB. Everyone who has based their purchase of shares on my recommendation should sell their shares.”

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With China Tel, Has Tobin Smith Been 'Outfoxed' Again?

Tobin Smith, co-star of Fox News Channel’s popular “Bulls & Bears” investment show, recently declared a challenging new “mission in life.” In an upbeat message to his 2,700-plus followers on Twitter last week, Smith promised to helpChina Tel Group (OTC: CHTL.OB) – a penny stock company he has been touting for months – secure the financing it needs in order to survive.

To be sure, CHTL could use some assistance. More than a year ago, CHTL agreed to pay $195 million for a 49% stake in Chinacomm – an Asian broadband wireless company that ranks as its primary asset – but it still lacks the money required to actually pay for that deal. Although CHTL has inked plenty of financing agreements in the meantime, most recently with two mysterious firms known as Excel Era and the Isaac Organization, the company never seems to collect promised cash from those backers in the end.

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Does the NanoLogix Rally Make Any Sense?

The NanoLogix (OTC: NNLX.PK) stock chart featured on a YouTube video – set to the catchy “Money Song” tune from Monty Python – looks rather outdated following this spring’s incredible, if inexplicable, spike in the company’s share price.

When that video first surfaced in the fall of 2007, NNLX was still focused on increasing hydrogen production with the help of grape juice while allowing Nutra Pharma (OTC: NPHC.OB) – the company’s former partner – to pursuebreakthroughs in its current business of diagnostic technology. (NPHC’s own volatile rally, staged late last year, has already come to an end.) Back then, NNLX’s stock had almost doubled in a month but still fetched only 15 cents a share. Since moving into the medical arena and converting a barn-like structure into a “clean room” for producing diagnostic testing kits (with the construction project captured in yet another YouTube video), however, NNLX has seen its stock rocket more than 200% in recent weeks to pass $1 a share.

Even Bret Barnhizer – NanoLogix’s own CEO – cannot explain that move.

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Has Atlantic Wind and Solar Been Fueled by Hot Air?

Atlantic Wind and Solar (OTC: AWSL.PK) is suspected of blowing a lot of hot air in an effort to inflate the company’s stock price.

A year ago, AWSL supposedly acquired a 47.5% stake in Hybridyne Power Systems – later touting Hybridyne’s “best-in-class” technology and its access to an expansive research team – for $2 million worth of its own stock. After publicizing a string of stock-boosting projects secured by Hybridyne, however, AWSL suddenly announced this month that it had canceled its acquisition of the company due to an “unfortunate default by the vendor” that rendered the transaction “null and void.”  

Notably, Hybridyne itself now claims that the acquisition never took place at all.

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Can the Batteries Last on Overcharged Lithium Stocks?

Lithium Corporation (OTC: LTUM.OB) sure looks a whole lot prettier in paid tout sheets than it does in its regulatory filings.

In recent months, stock promoters have treated LTUM – a company with no revenue and just $855 in the bank – like a surefire winner that’s poised to supply giant automakers with the lithium they will need to power tomorrow’s battery-operated cars. The promoters offer similar reasons for their incredible confidence, led by soaring demand for lithium and LTUM’s ready access to lithium mines, while carefully excluding their compensation for touting the stock from its list of key attractions.

To some, however, even LTUM’s most “legitimate” selling points look suspect. They point to a recent article in The New York Times, entitled “The Lithium Chase,” as evidence.

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Tradeshow Marketing Knows How to Sell Its Stock

Give Tradeshow Marketing (OTC: TSHO.PK) some credit. For a company riddled with so many ugly conflicts, TSHO sure knows how to put on a pretty face for investors.

TSHO can thank SkyMark Research – a promotional firm operated by the apparent son of TSHO’s own founder – for reshaping its public image. For years, TSHO looked like a failed business with limited appeal to even speculative investors willing to place bets on high-risk penny stocks. After SkyMark launched favorable coverage of TSHO late last year, however, the company saw interest in its long-overlooked stock suddenly skyrocket. more...



AENY: Look What's Hiding beneath that Former Shell

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Americas Energy Company (AENY.OB) exposed some ugly flaws when it emerged from its corporate shell.

Following its heavily hyped reverse merger, AENY now counts CEO Christopher Headrick – a longtime dealmaker with a history of failure – as its sole officer, director and member of its staff. Although AENY has announced plans to expand its senior management team, the company aims to do so by hiring leaders who have benefited handsomely from a series of generous related-party deals. One of those potential executives, already identified as a company vice president in the past, has agreed to plead guilty to felony tax evasion charges and could face up to five years in prison for his crime. more...



IMGG Fails to Paint a Pretty Picture for Investors

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The picture at Imaging3 (IMGG.OB) just got a whole lot uglier.

IMGG dropped a bombshell on investors this week, when it revealed a major setback in its lengthy battle to secure regulatory approval of its Dominion 3-D scanning device. For months, IMGG has indicated that the company simply needed to resolve one minor issue – involving the Dominion’s label – in order to satisfy reviewers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. During a conference call with shareholders on Tuesday, however, IMGG reported that it has now fielded more than a dozen questions from FDA staffers who are evaluating the company’s device. more...



PennyStockChaser Hides Profits, Secrets from Investors

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This June, shortly after PennyStockChaser announced that it had become the most popular website for “hot penny stock tips” in the business, the Internet-based tout sheet began dropping a familiar name that once carried considerable weight on Wall Street.

It listed Mike Schonberg – a name formerly attached to such legendary investment firms as Dreyfus and UBS – as its official contact person. Keeping with its secretive nature, however, the website stopped well short of offering any details about Schonberg’s professional background. more...



Convicted Swindler Touts Risky Penny Stocks

Rich Roon had already served time in prison for swindling investors when he decided to reenter the securities business as a penny stock promoter.

In 2003, just 16 months after his release from jail, Roon quietly established a consulting business that targets obscure microcap companies desperate for publicity. Roon’s firm, known as Oceanic Consulting, aggressively promotes penny stocks on its OTC Reporter website in exchange for shares of the companies being touted. Over the years, Oceanic Consulting has collected – and promptly sold – billions of free shares of penny stocks that have lost money for average investors. more...