By Brendan Pierson


NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York investor relations professional was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison after pleading guilty to taking part in a scheme to inflate the stock of LED lighting company ForceField Energy Inc.


Jared Mitchell, who was a partner at investment firm Mitchell & Sullivan Capital LLC when he was charged last year, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Mitchell, 35, was among nine people charged in May 2016 with manipulating ForceField stock, which is now virtually worthless. Prosecutors said investors lost $131 million as a result of the scheme.


Authorities said the defendants manipulated the stock from December 2009 to April 2015 by secretly trading it in undisclosed accounts, inflating trading volume to create a false sense of demand, and concealing kickbacks to stock promoters and brokers to tout it.


Mitchell was accused of taking kickbacks from a ForceField executive between October 2014 and April 2015. Mitchell passed some of that money on to brokers, who in turn bought ForceField stock for their clients, prosecutors said.

In addition to Mitchell, three other defendants, all brokers, have been sentenced. Gerald Cocuzzo was sentenced last month to 18 months, Naveed Khan was sentenced in May to two years and Maroof Miyana was sentenced in March to three months, according to court filings.

Of the remaining five defendants awaiting sentencing, four have pleaded guilty and one was convicted after a trial.

The charges followed the April 2015 arrest of Richard St. Julien, a Canadian citizen who was executive chairman of ForceField, previously called SunSi Energies Inc. St. Julien was charged separately and has cooperated with prosecutors, court records show. He has not been sentenced.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)