An artist with a unique sense of humor, fertile imagination, and or an ironic way of looking at the world, claimed he became the richest man in the world when Google’s parent company, Alphabet, bought his art business in exchange for stock.
Antonio Lee, owner of YNoFace Holdings, is a 32-year-old painter who works in acrylics, filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission falsely claiming that Alphabet gave him 4.5 billion Class A shares in its company as payment for YNoFace Holdings. That number of shares is about a factor of ten larger than the actual number of outstanding shares, and would be worth an estimated $3.6 trillion, making Lee richer than Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos, all together!
The false filing seems to have done little damage other than to Lee’s credibility, although it has gotten him so free publicity. There is no evidence that anyone believed his filing claim, that he profited in any way, or fooled any investor.
The former barber and retail agent, who paints his subjects without faces, told the Chicago Tribune that he always wanted to be rich, “so I could have more free time with my family.” He is a divorced father of three.
The filing did make its way into the SEC’s Edgar database, which takes online submissions of regulatory filings. Every year as many as 800,000 forms are filed with the SEC, or an astounding 3,000 every working day. The government does not check the filings, and frequently doesn’t even remove the ones found to be false.
“The SEC can’t stop them,” Lawrence West, a former SEC associate enforcement director. “They can only punish the filer afterward and remove the filing from the system. So, caveat lector — let the reader beware.”
The government can choose to charge false filers with a civil-fraud lawsuit, or even a federal criminal prosecution can ensue.
This was not the first-time Lee filed a false form with the SEC. On October 19 Lee said that the Bank of America bought a share in YNoFace Holdings for the company’s stock worth $88 billion. Apparently, he was still not rich enough.