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SEC charges Dhillon over U.S. pharma company touting

2022-09-30 20:39 ET - Street Wire

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by Mike Caswell

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil fraud charges against Vancouver's Avtar Dhillon and others for the paid promotion of four companies. Among other things, the group arranged for an article that touted a company associated with Mr. Dhillon as being "The Next Aspirin," the SEC says. The company was able to raise $30-million through the promotion, according to the SEC. (All figures are in U.S. dollars.)

The allegations are contained in a civil complaint that the SEC filed on Friday, Sept. 30, in federal court in Los Angeles. The defendants include Mr. Dhillon, a Canadian living in California. Also charged are William Mikula, a resident of Georgia associated with an on-line tout sheet; Christian Fernandez, a Mexican citizen living in Georgia; Amit Beri, an Australian living in Florida; and James DeMesa, a Florida resident.

The case stems in part from the paid promotion of Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company that claims to be developing drugs to treat neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases. According to the SEC, Mr. Dhillon and others developed a plan in 2019 in which Mr. Mikula would feature the company in an on-line tout sheet, without the company having any apparent involvement. The idea, as described in the complaint, was to have Emerald pay for the tout sheets through sham consulting agreements.

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