The headquarters of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is seen in Washington, DC, January 28, 2021.
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A Minnesota man criminally charged with committing securities fraud by hijacking dormant shell companies has taken a step that suggests he will plead guilty, a new court filing revealed.
A lawyer for the man, Mark Miller, told a judge in a letter filed Tuesday that Miller will not submit pre-trial motions in his criminal case, and asked to be excused from a scheduled hearing on such motions next week in Minnesota federal court.
Miller’s lawyer said in his letter he would contact Judge Kate Menendez’s chambers “for a change of plea hearing date.” The attorney also said he met with Miller to discuss a “plea offer” from prosecutors in the case.
Pre-trial motions are routinely filed by criminal defendants who plan to go to trial.
Miller, a 43-year-old general contractor who lives in the town of Breezy Point, previously pleaded not guilty in his case.
The fact that his lawyer plans to seek a “change of plea hearing” suggests Miller will change that plea to guilty.
The attorney, Robert Lengeling, did not immediately return requests for comment from CNBC.
Miller is one of three men charged by federal prosecutors in June with an alleged scheme that ran from 2017 through 2019 in which they purportedly used fake resignation letters to seize control of four shell companies. Prosecutors allege that the men then used the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR public filing system and bogus press releases to fraudulently “pump up” share prices by claiming new business opportunities.
The four shell companies targeted by the alleged conspiracy were Digitiliti, Encompass Holdings, Bell Buckle Holdings and Utilicraft Aerospace Industries.
A civil lawsuit filed against Miller in June by the Securities and Exchange Commission accuses him of a fraudulent scheme targeting “at least seven inactive penny-stock companies … by hijacking five of the companies.”
A lawyer for one of Miller’s co-defendants, Christopher James Rajkaran, on Wednesday notified the judge that Rajkaran also will not submit pre-trial motions.
The judge then cancelled the Sept. 15 motions hearings set for Miller and Rajkaran.
A third defendant, Saeid Jaberian, is still pursuing pre-trial motions in the case.
Jaberian’s lawyer said in a court filing in late August that he wants Jaberian to be tried separately from Miller and Rajkaran.
The lawyer said that “at a future trial, Jaberian’s defense will require asserting that Miller tricked him” into unwittingly participating in a scheme to hijack a dormant shell company.
Prosecutors are opposing that request to have Jaberian tried separately.
Miller, Rajkaran and Jaberian are charged with 15 criminal counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud.
Lawyers of Rajkaran and Jaberian did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiries about whether the defendants will move toward changing their pleas as Miller appears to have done.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CNBC previously reported that Miller had also attempted to seize control of a Florida penny-stock company, New World Gold, which is not named as having been one of his alleged targets in either the criminal case or a civil case filed by the SEC.
Miller had submitted a new motion in the lawsuit to take New World Gold just one day before being indicted in federal court.
He later dropped the lawsuit less than two weeks after CNBC reported his involvement with New World Gold.
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