Double secret probation? Laikin faces stock charges

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Federal prosecutors say there's been some funny business going on at National Lampoon, home to "Animal House" and the "Vacation" movie franchise.

National Lampoon CEO Daniel Laikin was among those charged Monday for their roles in a scheme to trick Wall Street investors into thinking there was far more interest in National Lampoon shares than there actually was.

Traded on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol NLN, the stock was halted Monday at 73 cents a share.

Laikin and his co-conspirators are accused of trying to manipulate the stock to $2.50 a share and then to $5. Laikin and some partners own more than half of the outstanding shares of the company, and Laikin would have made about $15 million if the scheme had worked.

Plus, a rising stock price on more-than-usual volume would have created the illusion that Wall Street deemed National Lampoon a healthy company worthy of being acquired by a larger entertainment firm.

According to a grand jury indictment, Laikin engaged Dennis Barsky — a National Lampoon "consultant" — along with stock promoters Tim Dougherty and Eduardo Rodriguez to buy shares regularly or bribe brokers and others to buy and hold stock.

Prosecutors said the co- conspirators were supplied non-public information about National Lampoon and that much of their stock buying was coordinated with press releases so that whatever news was being touted would seem more important to Wall Street than it actually was.

The scheme, though, never generated the inflated prices Laikin was seeking, and it fell apart after alleged co-conspirator Rodriguez unwittingly sought the help of an FBI cooperating witness.

The conspiracy took place between March and June, though the stock traded at a higher price before the manipulation took place than it did after it occurred. (partialdiff)
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