NEWARK, N.J. -- In less than half a year, Jonathan G. Lebed earned more than a quarter-million dollars trading stocks on the Internet.
Amid a raging bull market, the accomplishment would be of little note except that Lebed was then a 14-year-old high school sophomore in northern New Jersey.
But his gains were wiped out Wednesday when the Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil fraud charges against the youth, claiming he made his money through 11 illegal manipulations involving nine stocks.
Lebed, now 15, of Cedar Grove, has agreed to repay $285,000, which the SEC said represented illegal profits and interest. He neither admitted nor denied the commission's findings, but agreed to refrain from similar behavior. It is the first time the agency has brought charges against a minor.
The teen-ager said his interest in the stock market began at age 11, watching the financial network CNBC.
"It intrigued me watching all the numbers go by on television," he said. "I've always been interested in business -- any kind of politics, finance, anything of that nature."
A year later -- at age 12 -- he was putting money from his savings account in stocks.
Lebed allegedly reaped profits by buying large blocks of thinly traded stocks, hyping them on financial message boards and then -- within 24 hours -- dumping his shares after the price rose.
The trades, from custodial accounts in his father's name at two brokers, took place from Aug. 23, 1999, to Feb. 4, 2000. Officials said there was no indication that his parents knew anything about the alleged illegal activities.
"He's a good student," his father, Gregory Lebed, told reporters. He said he could not comment on his son's case.
Lebed's lawyer Kevin H. Marino described him as an intelligent, well-rounded youngster who has been a successful investor.
"He and his family feel it's a very fair and appropriate settlement and are happy to have the entire matter behind him," Marino said.
The SEC found that after Lebed bought a stock he sent hundreds of identical, false e-mail messages, each under a fictitious name, touting the stock he had just purchased.
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