Teenage twins face fight in US over $3m stock scam


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Twin brothers from the Newcastle area were last night facing the full force of the US legal system over a share trading scam run from their bedroom.

Alexander and Thomas Hunter were just 16 when they started pretending that they had developed a "stock-picking robot" that could predict when a share was going to double in value.

Over the next three years, 75,000 investors around the world paid them a total of $1.2m for tips on obscure US shares. At the same time, the brothers pocketed $1.9m more from dodgy "share promoters" who wanted their stocks to be hyped in newsletters and emails to the brothers' customers.

All of this was happening out of the pair's family home in Whitley Bay, under the noses of their parents.

Alexander Hunter, now 21, was convicted in Newcastle Crown Court last November on four charges of unauthorised trading and ordered to pay back the money he had taken from unwitting investors. But that wasn't the end of his legal troubles, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission is suing both brothers for running what it called a classic "pump and dump" scheme - pumping up interest in scores of different shares so that promoters could dump them on unsuspecting buyers.

Thomas Hunter, the SEC alleges, partnered with his brother to set up a company in Panama so that they could carry on the scheme when their British bank account was frozen in 2009.

The scam was an elaborate one, involving fantastical claims on fake websites that the pair created.

The brothers could face penalties many times larger than the fees they charged their unsuspecting customers.

"The Hunters used the anonymity of the Internet and the promise of easy riches to prey on investors," said Thomas Sporkin of the SEC.