Social media influencers used Twitter and Discord to manipulate stocks

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged seven social media influencers with securities fraud, saying Wednesday that they were part of a $100 million scheme to use social media platforms Twitter and Discord, as well as podcasts, to manipulate the price of specific stocks.

Though the influencers are not household names, they have accrued more than 2 million followers across various social media platforms. In addition, they routinely posted photos of their wealth, including of exotic sports cars.

The influencers charged include “PJ Matlock,” whose real name is Perry Matlock. On Wednesday, he deactivated his Twitter account, which had more than 340,000 followers.

One person, Daniel Knight, who goes by the online handle “DipDeity,” was charged with “aiding and abetting the alleged scheme” after co-hosting a podcast that promoted the other defendants, the SEC said.

Other defendants include Edward Constantin, who went by the online handle “MrZackMorris”; Thomas Cooperman, who goes by “oh hey tommy”; Gary Deel, who goes by “Mystic Mac” or “notorious alerts”; Mitchell Hennessey, who goes by “Hugh Henne”; Stefan Hrvatin, who goes by “LadeBackk”; and John Rybarcyzk, who goes by “The Stock Sniper” or “Ultra_Calls.”

Each of them has at least 100,000 Twitter followers, as well as significant followings on other platforms.

They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The SEC also said criminal charges had been filed by the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and the U.S. attorney’s office for Southern Texas.

Discord is a private chatroom and messaging platform popular with gaming influencers and, more recently, financial influencers. One Discord chat, in particular, Atlas Trading, which had more than 233,000 members as of Wednesday morning, allegedly served as a primary forum for the scheme. According to the SEC, seven of the defendants promoted stocks to their hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and in stock trading rooms on Discord since at least January 2020.

After purchasing the stocks and encouraging their followers to do the same, the defendants “regularly sold their shares without ever having disclosed their plans to dump the securities while promoting them,” the SEC said in a news release.

The SEC said in a complaint filed Tuesday that recordings of some of the defendants showed them discussing their alleged scheme over Discord voice chats, including one from March 1, 2021, between Knight and Cooperman.

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