SEC Charges TheBull with Selling “Insider Trading Tips” on the Dark Web

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Apostolos Trovias, a Greek national, with perpetrating a fraudulent scheme to sell what he called “insider trading tips” on the Dark Web. The Dark Web, which facilitates anonymity by obscuring users’ identities, allows users to purchase and sell illegal products and services, and in this case, insider trading tips.

According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, from at least December 2016 through early 2021, Trovias—operating under the pseudonym “TheBull”—engaged in a deceptive scheme to offer and sell so-called “insider trading tips” on Dark Web marketplaces to purchasers whom Trovias offered an unfair advantage for trading securities in the public markets. As alleged in the complaint, Trovias claimed that the information he was selling consisted of order-book data from a securities trading firm that was provided to Trovias by an employee of the firm. Trovias allegedly sold those “tips” through one-off sales, as well as weekly and monthly subscriptions. Trovias allegedly sold over 100 subscriptions to investors via the Dark Web over the course of the scheme. The complaint alleges that, in addition to order-book information, Trovias sold the pre-release earnings reports of publicly traded companies. The complaint further alleges that Trovias acknowledged to federal authorities that this information was “sensitive and more importantly illegal to use or share.”

“Trovias’s alleged conduct was an attempt to evade detection by operating in obscure online forums,” said Kristina Littman, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit. “As this case demonstrates, the SEC will continue to target misconduct wherever it occurs and regardless of perpetrators’ efforts to hide their tracks.”

The SEC’s complaint charges Trovias with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement, prejudgment interest and penalties against Trovias.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Trovias.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Jon Daniels and Morgan B. Ward Doran of the Cyber Unit, and supervised by John O. Enright and Ms. Littman. The SEC’s continuing litigation is being conducted by Victor Suthammanont and Mr. Daniels. The Commission appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service.

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