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Pumping penny stocks in the name of acting…

images-21.jpegBeing an aspiring actress is no doubt hard work and sometimes you wind up doing stuff you’re less than proud of for the paycheck. Or the clip. Yesterday, the SEC announced that it was suspending trading in three companies: NeoTactix (NCTX), Graystone Park Enterprises (GPKE), and Younger America (YNGR). The suspensions were not for securities violation or fraud, but were due to spam email and cheesy promotional videos on You Tube, like this one featuring the acting talents of Jenn Hofffman, a contestant on Apprentice 6. If you make it through the whole video, you’ll see that they’re really just bad knock-offs of Wallstrip.

Hoffman, a Phoenix-based actress was hired by Qualitystocks.net, a Scottsdale-based stock promoter which focuses on the small cap market and judging by this release charges hefty fees — $20K a month — for its services. Those services apparently include talking up the stock on Yahoo message boards as well as producing videos and getting its releases onto mainstream news sites, like Reuters. Just to be clear, yesterday’s SEC complaint does not involve Red Lake (RLKX.OB).

In a phone call this morning, John Reed Stark, Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, said that so far, the suspension was focused on the three companies, as opposed to QualityStocks, although this AP story says that the company is also being investigated. Stark did say that this is the first time that the SEC had turned to YouTube. A quick skim of YouTube shows that the last video to be uploaded by Quality Stocks was on Tuesday — two days before the SEC’s announcement, though it has newer videos on its own site, including one from yesterday that features a company called Famous Uncle Al’s Hot Dogs and Grill (FDOG.OB)

It’s been about 10 years since I last talked to Stark, for this story in the NY Times. There’s been a lot of technology improvements since then, including the wide availability of web-based video. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.