The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday charged eight social media influencers in a “pump and dump” trading scheme, alleging they used Twitter and Discord to manipulate stock prices and collectively gaining about $114 million in the process.
The eight suspects are from Texas, California, Florida, and New Jersey. Separate civil charges have also been fired. One suspect had already plead guilty on Tuesday.
According to the SEC, seven of the suspects would purposely hype up a particular stock which they already held to their combined millions of followers on Twitter and Discord, inflating its price, with the eighth suspect aiding and abetting in the scheme. They would then sell their own shares, deleting previous Discord messages and tweets to obscure any influence in fluctuating prices.
Authorities allege the group knew that their behavior was potentially criminal, with one of the suspects at one point reaching out to another one of the other suspects and writing in a message: “Get caught...we’re robbing fucking idiots of their money.”
On social media, some stock market watchers celebrated the charges, saying they had tried to warn the suspects’ followers about potential criminal activity.
The charges come as more people are calling out crypto traders and influencers for similarly engaging in potential pump and dump schemes. An investigation by the Australian Financial Review found that Telegram channels play a significant role in influencing followers to invest in certain crypto currencies, with authorities struggling to regulate the fraud because of the platform’s encrypted messages.