April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Lancer Group founder Michael Lauer was acquitted of fraud charges stemming from an alleged stock-pricing scheme that prosecutors said he used to artificially inflate the value of his hedge funds.
Jurors in federal court in Miami deliberated more than three days before finding Lauer not guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in connection with the alleged scheme. He faced as many as 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if convicted.
“There was simply no evidence, nothing illegal,” Lauer said outside the courtroom after the verdict. He said he plans to return to the hedge fund business.
The government alleged Lauer and an associate bought quantities of restricted stock of shell companies starting in 1999 and instructing brokers to buy a smaller number of shares of the same companies at higher, open-market prices to drive shares to a targeted price, according to court filings.
Lauer, who founded the New York-based Lancer Group in 1993, then falsely valued all of the firm’s securities at the higher closing prices, which artificially inflated the funds’ investment returns, prosecutors contended. That helped attract new investors and generated lucrative fees for fund officials, the government contended.
Lauer’s lawyers countered during the six-week trial that the hedge fund manager was a savvy trader whose stock picks were designed to make money for investors and he didn’t engage in fraud.
The criminal case is U.S. v. Michael Lauer, 08-20071, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).
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