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SEC charges Baltimore man with insider trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Wednesday it has charged a Baltimore business consultant and his uncle with insider trading, alleging cloak-and-dagger efforts to get valuable information that wasn't yet public about two biotech firms.

Brett A. Cohen of Baltimore received tip-offs in coded e-mail — at least one of them quoting the movie "Wall Street" and alerted his uncle, David V. Myers of Cleveland, the SEC alleged in its complaint. Myers then made more than $600,000 in "illicit profits" by acting on the insider information, according to the complaint.

In a separate criminal case, both men have agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California announced Wednesday.

Myers' attorney declined to comment. Cohen's attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The SEC alleged that Cohen received his tips from a fraternity brother, who in turn got them from a relative working at biotech firm Sequenom Inc. in San Diego. Cohen learned before the public announcement in 2009 that Sequenom was offering to acquire another biotech company, and he also got an early heads-up that a Sequenom screening test for Down syndrome was not as accurate as had been thought, according to the complaint.

The SEC alleges that in one of the tip-off e-mails, Cohen's fraternity brother wrote, "[A]ny word related to Blu H@rsesh0e? La Jolla says the times are ripe." The regulatory agency said "Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel" is an insider trading code from the movie "Wall Street," while "La Jolla" is a reference to the Sequenom employee's hometown.

Other e-mail messages used swine flu as a code for the screening-test problems, the SEC said.

After the tips, Cohen called his uncle on an outdoor pay phone to pass the word, the agency alleged.

The big payoff came from the second tip, about the screening test, the SEC said. Myers bought "put options" on Sequenom and sold them the next day — when the news was announced and the company's stock price plummeted — for a profit of more than $570,000, the SEC said.

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